As Rocky View County (RVC) council continues the process of hiring a permanent County Manager, interim Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Rick McDonald plans to use his time with the organization to learn about the municipality and suggest possible changes to improve interactions between RVC and residents, groups and businesses.
“Every community is different,” McDonald said. “You do need to spend some time learning, to become a specialist in that community, and then make some recommendations – and, perhaps, some changes.”
McDonald was appointed interim CAO June 12, and brings almost 40 years of public- and private-sector leadership experience to the job. He’s provided interim CAO services for a number of rural and urban municipalities, including Yellowhead County, Saddle Hills County, Westlock County, the Town of Grande Cache, the City of Cold Lake and the Town of Olds.
“Generally speaking, my role over the last 20 years has been to work with municipalities, not-for-profits and other types of corporations – such as boards and commissions – to review their operations, to review their governance structures and to give them some advice and recommendations,” McDonald said.
Most recently, McDonald served as the City Manager in Lloydminster, from April to October 2017.
“During that time, I made a lot of organizational recommendation changes,” McDonald said. “I think that’s one of the reasons council felt they needed somebody like me to come in, assess the situation and give them some advice.”
While interviewing for his current position, McDonald and council agreed he would focus on three areas of importance during his time at RVC – enhancing customer service, streamlining processes and enhancing the relationship between council and administration. Achieving those results will include providing effective oversight, eliminating unnecessary processes and, ultimately, making it easier for residents and businesses to interact with the County.
“Not everything is bad in RVC, I want to make that abundantly clear,” McDonald said. “I’ve been here a month and there’s some good people here. I’m here to look for ways to improve things.”
McDonald said he also wants to support RVC’s new council as it matures in its role, while also supporting administration.
“What I’ve found is, you have a brand-new council. I think that’s important,” he said. “They have a new outlook on what customer service means, what their roles are. They also need some advice…I can help them perhaps find some of their foundations and work with them to develop policies and improve the policies that they have, so their governance model is working together with the direction the communities are moving.”
McDonald’s contract with the County ends in October, and he hopes to have something material for the organization by late September. The first month of his tenure has consisted of meetings with senior management and management supervisors, and McDonald said he plans to continue meeting with as many employees as possible.
“I have a bit of a grassroots approach,” McDonald said. “One of the things I did in Lloydminster, and have done in previous assignments, is I try to meet with as many employees as I can within a short period of time.”
McDonald said he’s also met with – and is open to meeting with – county residents, groups and businesses that can provide feedback on RVC’s direction. Meeting with people both inside and outside the organization, he said, will help him identify areas that may need to change.
“If something’s broken, I want to find out what it is,” McDonald said. “Then, I’d like to find out how to fix it.”
In the search for a permanent County Manager, Manager of Communication Services Grant Kaiser said council has created a shortlist of candidates, but has not yet begun interviewing. Council remains committed to taking the necessary time to find the right fit for the position, Kaiser said. Once that person is hired, McDonald will help transition leadership to the new CAO.