A leadership issue at Town Hall

March 31, 2016   ·   0 Comments

I think we have a leadership issue at town council. Let me explain.

In the reading that I have done, and the conversations that I have had, I think it would be fair to say that people are genuinely embarrassed by the antics we have recently witnessed within council meetings. For me, the frustration has morphed to concern. I am concerned about how our beloved town is being perceived by others. Yes, it is beautiful. Unfortunately, the fabric of our future existence is unraveling before our eyes. The town desperately needs leadership.

Toronto went through the leadership crisis recently. I imagine the majority of us watched the antics of Toronto council and its embattled late Mayor Rob Ford. Many of us in Dufferin County were simply glad we chose a different life. No, the “Big Smoke” is another place. That would never happen in Orangeville. The shouting, lack of direction, and (wait for it) potential criminal investigation into its members existed only in the large metropolitan centres. That is, until now.

It is unfair to simply say that the entire Orangeville council are unable to show that they are a paragon of virtue, a beacon of inspiring light for the rest of us to blindly follow. We all know that is not reasonable or true. It is also unfair to characterize the town decision-makers as a group of nefarious characters determined to push initiatives forward for their own gain. There is no doubt that all seven of the community leaders who were elected to council have benevolent intentions for the town. They are good people, who as a collective have unfortunately lost their way.

Why has this happened? Why has council fallen from their collective original goal of making Orangeville and Dufferin County a better place? In my view, Jeremy Williams has not been able to make the leap from Councillor Williams to Mayor Williams. Simplistically, a councillor can choose projects that are of great personal interest to them and champion them.

The Mayor of Orangeville does not have this same luxury. The mayor must consider all of the views of council with the goal of finding common ground to ensure items are accomplished effectively and within a reasonable timeline. The Mayor is the face of the town.

It is true – I do think the Mayor has done some wonderfully positive things since he was elected (his constituency work is tireless and formidable).  Mr. Williams does indeed have skills that a mayor of a town the size of Orangeville should own. It is not a role that many of us could do. It is demanding, time-consuming, and let’s be honest with each other, the compensation is poor given the personal sacrifices required.

The unfortunate thing for Orangeville is that Mayor Williams has not fully mastered the essential traits of effective leadership.

The Mayor should have an element of connectivity with all members of council. All should be fully briefed on the major issues of council.

The idea of providing a policing service to Amaranth is a good one. Revenue for this project would be over $400,000 per year.

Unfortunately, council was blindsided by the Mayor on this issue. They knew nothing of it. Followership is not granted to those leaders who are not transparent and inclusive. The Amaranth opportunity was voted down by an angry and aghast council. Imagine the possibilities if Mayor Williams had included Council during the genesis of the project.

Strong organizations have a leader who makes everyone comfortable. People feel safe to take risks without being punished for doing so. Mayor Williams lost key support amongst his council on induction night. If you are not familiar, the newly elected mayor lined each of his council members up by votes received. That is, the highest vote tallies were immediately beside the Mayor, while the lowest votes received were positioned farthest away. To me, everyone should have been treated equally.

Leaders are optimistic. They put their people in positions where they can best succeed, helping them overcome their own feelings of self-doubt. The appointment of Councillor Nick Garisto as finance chair was simply poor judgment by Jeremy Williams. No one would dare say that the budget meetings were successful. It was truly was hard to watch. Mr. Garisto was put in a difficult spot that he was simply not qualified for. In addition, his tendency to bloviate each time he wanted to discuss an issue simply frustrated everyone.

In the future, I hope the Mayor will offer Councillor Garisto a different position that is more suitable to his skill set.

Lastly, great leaders display sound judgment – always. Personally, I don’t believe the Mayor would do anything improper regarding finances. None of the public is privy to the details of the probe into his expenses. The unfortunate fact is that Peel Police will now investigate our Mayor. It is a sad and perplexing situation.

The town of Orangeville and Dufferin County need the Mayor to grow into his role. We need a new path. We need a path that puts the mistakes of the past firmly behind us. Lead us, Mr. Mayor. Lead us.

Written by Todd Taylor


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