WESTLOCK – Borne out of the COVID-19 outbreak, the weekly meetings between the CAOs of the Westlock area’s three municipalities will be the region’s submission to the 20th-annual Minister’s Awards for Municipal Excellence.
Town, county and Village of Clyde councils all penned letters of support for the award, which recognizes excellence in local government practices and promotes knowledge-sharing among municipalities — the letters were due to Municipal Affairs March 31. The local application will be under the partnership category, which is an award for a leading municipal practice involving regional cooperation and could involve things like consultation, coordination and cooperation with other municipalities, agencies, non-profit organizations, community groups and other orders of government.
“I want to commend the administration of all three councils for the wonderful job they’ve been doing collaborating and it’s led to many other things that we’re doing together as one big community. Thank you very much for your efforts,” said Coun. Randy Wold at the March 22 town meeting.
Added Coun. Clem Fagnan: “I’ve spent a lot of my time on council trying to get collaboration and agreements with the town and county and I must apologize that the Village of Clyde wasn’t always included. But I’m happy to see this coming together and working well.”
Town CAO Simone Wiley said they’ll use the tri-municipal communications protocol as the basis for their application — last August town council signed off on that six-page document which guides the dialogue.
Wiley said previously that the meetings between the CAOs began when “COVID kind of exploded” as they needed to share information on what they were doing in regards to the pandemic. When things slowed down, the meetings scaled back, but the three felt the get-togethers had been productive and needed to continue.
Now, the in-person 60-minute meetings between the senior admin of the three municipalities occur weekly, while the agenda includes a hot topic from each participant, news from the federal and provincial governments, action items from the previous meeting and a big-picture topic/opportunity.
“And for the application we’re also including all the subsequent agreements that have occurred between the three of us since that to really showcase what has happened since we’ve been meeting weekly in the region,” Wiley noted.
At Westlock County, councillors wanted to recognize past interim CAO Rick McDonald’s work in getting them down the path of regional collaboration — McDonald left the county in February after 10 months in the top administrative job.
“I am one for collaboration, I think this is an awesome application, I think we should pursue it. I do think that we need to recognize that our interim CAO, Rick McDonald, was a big player in this, and that if there is a formal presentation, that he be included. I think that’s where it started,” said Coun. Lou Hall.
This local initiative also dovetails nicely with the government-mandated Intermunicipal Collaboration Frameworks, while the communications protocol states, “The timing is such that issues being faced have had an increasing amount of regional influence as opposed to impacting one municipality. As such a unified understanding of issue, consistent messaging and the potential for avoiding confusion for all stakeholders as to who might be responsible for what is seen as valuable for all involved.”
“Of all the regional collaboration things we’ve done over the years one of the things that continually comes up is to celebrate successes and this completely coincides with that,” said Coun. Murtaza Jamaly. “And unless you celebrate the successes nobody realizes how positive those changes are. The benefit that we have seen in the three municipalities working together has drastically changed the landscape and the dynamic between the three and that’s something we all wanted to see.”
Building economic strength, service delivery innovation and enhancing community safety are other award categories open to all municipalities, while there’s a Smaller Municipalities Award (open to munis with populations less than 5,000) handed out for a municipal initiative that demonstrates leadership, resourcefulness, and/or innovation to better the community.
“I encourage you to share your success stories, and I look forward to celebrating these successes with your communities,” said Municipal Affairs minister Ric McIver in a release.