Welcome to Cobourg’s New CAO

Today Mayor John Henderson announced that Tracey Vaughan will be Cobourg’s new Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), effective Monday, October 5, 2020.  Her current position is Director of Recreation and Culture at Ajax which she has held for 8 years.  She also currently lives in Ajax.  From her resume on Linked-In (see link below), she has been working since 1998 after graduating from York University with degrees in Sociology and Psychology.  Her experience includes “nearly two decades of senior management experience within the municipal and public sectors”.

The Mayor’s announcement continues with:

In her current role as the Director of Recreation, Culture and Community Development with the Town of Ajax she designed and implemented several key strategic plans including the Diversity and Community Engagement Plan, Age Friendly Community Plan and Community Safety Strategy, managed a budget of over $20M and a departmental staff of over 500 employees. Ms. Vaughan also has extensive experience in the areas of economic development, community development and relationship building within a two-tier governance system.

Tracey Vaughan
Tracey Vaughan

Cobourg’s operating budget is around $25M and the number of staff is approx. 400.  Tracey’s salary in 2019 was $180K and her new Cobourg CAO salary would presumably be comparable to Stephen Peacock’s 2018 salary of $225K so it’s a good move for her and hopefully for Cobourg. The photo above right was released with the announcement.

In her statement included in the announcement she said:

“Each and every time I’ve visited Cobourg I have been impressed with not only your incredible waterfront but also with the Town’s thoughtful blend of history, amenities and culture,” states Ms. Vaughan. “I am passionate about building community and fostering an innovative work culture committed to a positive and productive environment for staff and Council. It is a true delight to be a part of the team and I look forward to working alongside Council, Town staff and with the entire community as we continue to move the municipality forward.”

Hiring was managed by a special CAO hiring committee (Mayor Henderson, Deputy Mayor Suzanne Séguin and Councillor Emily Chorley) who worked with Legacy Executive Search to generate a short list who were then interviewed by all Councillors.  The choice of Tracey was unanimous.  The budget to pay the executive search company was $20K – $30K.

Mayor Henderson says that she will be “Council’s primary advisor” but she is also the interface who accepts council direction and passes it to staff.  That is, staff report to her and not directly to Council.  It’s an important role. An unofficial Organization chart is here.

With a start date of October 5, Tracey will be plunged into the middle of budget deliberations for 2021 which will be difficult because of the impact of Covid-19.

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Sandpiper
14 September 2020 8:02 am

I for one am ,very happy that we have an outsider
That hope fully can and will run this town like a Cost efficient business . As you Know this Town has not been run like a Business responsible to its share holders / residents for nearly 15 yrs
I Hope this person is Unbiased and will not be led or swayed by the various department heads .
Hopefully this Lady will bring these lacking departments up to speed as well ,Our new Mayor certainly hasn’t . I am talking about a Head of Engineering / Planning and a department that knows whats going on ,and weather we have adequate service ie sanitary and storm sewers, Electrical so our basements don’t get flooded, no more power outages . May be then Developments that have been languishing for 10 or more yrs can finally get off the ground at affordable costs . Eliminate some of the dead wood like Bob Sanderson did in Port Hope no more duplication and Red Tape .
Time is Money I hope she is strong willed and does not get stepped on by the Old Boys !
GOOD LUCK & Congratulations

ben
Reply to  Sandpiper
18 September 2020 7:36 am

“That hope fully can and will run this town like a Cost efficient business . As you Know this Town has not been run like a Business responsible to its share holders / residents for nearly 15 yrs”

And what kind of business do you want? Nothing like big oil or giant Corporations that are held up as paragons of virtue whilst consuming great gobs of public subsidy!

And why only for 15 years, quote sources and reasoning for this wild statement!

Last edited 2 months ago by Ben
Gerinator
Reply to  ben
19 September 2020 12:27 pm

I’m with you Ben. There are some attributes of business (e.g. timely financial reporting) that should/must be implemented within our Town. Governance is not about profit & loss, its about many things: Trust, fairness, equity, quality of life, etc for ALL citizens. Also like you I have a good deal of skepticism generally about ‘business’ and its motives as it relates to communities. One example of that – significantly delayed reports of hacking to their databases (read our data) and there are many others. To be crystal clear – businesses are legal entities and (like MEC recently) will hide inconvenient information to preserve themselves; – businesses are profit/loss centrist; – businesses are beholding to their shareholders. Communities, and their citizenry, come a very poor fourth in their list of priorities.

Cobourg taxpayer
12 September 2020 9:35 pm

A town of Cobourg employee should be a town resident and taxpayer therefore having some skin in the game and concern about how taxpayer money is spent. Look at the current director of community services; no skin in the game at all and could care less about fiscal prudence. I find the salary the former CAO made excessive for a town of 20000. Presumably the next CAO makes that and more. A degree in sociology and psychology huh??? How about a business degree and experience in running a town as a business not limitless spending and tax increases?

Fact Checker
Reply to  Cobourg taxpayer
12 September 2020 10:32 pm

Cobourg Taxpayer:

I agree that a finance/accounting/business degree is very desirable, but the skills/knowledge could have been gained on the job.

You wrote “….experience in running a town as a business not limitless spending and tax increases…” I agree in principal, However, this would require the new CAO to already be a CAO. It also requires the assumption that she ran her department in a “non-business” like manner.
I have confidence that the CAO search team were well aware of the importance of financial/business skills and satisfied themselves that Ms. Vaughan has the needed skill sets and experience.

Regarding “skin in the game”: I think some checking into the matter would have shown that Dir Hustwick is a Cobourg resident. Further, research would also have revealed that some other directors are not Cobourg residents.

Last edited 2 months ago by Fact Checker
Cobourg taxpayer
Reply to  Fact Checker
13 September 2020 11:42 pm

Rumour has it Hustwick is a renter

Fact Checker
Reply to  Cobourg taxpayer
14 September 2020 7:28 am

Renter or owner…still a resident.

Cobourg taxpayer
Reply to  Fact Checker
16 September 2020 10:02 pm

But not a taxpayer

Fact Checker
Reply to  Cobourg taxpayer
16 September 2020 11:03 pm

CP:

So renters don’t pay property tax. Since when?
Ask any landlord and they will tell you that property taxes are a major cost of the rental property and the cost is recovered from the tenant.

Deborah OConnor
Reply to  Fact Checker
17 September 2020 4:26 pm

THANK YOU CP. Few people seem to understand that.

Fact Checker
Reply to  Deborah OConnor
17 September 2020 5:57 pm

For clarity Deborah:
CP said “…renters are NOT tax payers..”
I said “…renters DO pay property taxes…”

Which statement are you commenting on?

Last edited 2 months ago by Fact Checker
Wally Keeler
Reply to  Cobourg taxpayer
14 September 2020 8:58 am

Anonymous sources say, according to a pseudonym, that a real name, Hustwick, is a renter. That’s like CNN peddling “Fiery, but Mostly Peaceful” fake news, rumour mongering, all while hiding behind a burqa of anonymity.

Anonymous sources rumour that “Cobourg Taxpayer” is not a Cobourg resident.

Kyle
Reply to  Wally Keeler
17 September 2020 4:45 pm

The great thing with pseudonyms is you don’t do not have to wade through the constant I’s and me’s and assorted self back slapping. They get to their point or comment and that is that.

Frenchy
Reply to  Kyle
17 September 2020 7:28 pm

Zing!

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Frenchy
17 September 2020 11:57 pm

“…you don’t do not…”

 Zing!

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Kyle
17 September 2020 11:56 pm

“…you don’t do not…”

 So what’s your point?

Frenchy
Reply to  Wally Keeler
18 September 2020 10:51 am

Use that super imagination of yours (remember Nuawatin (sic)?) and figure it out.

Last edited 2 months ago by Frenchy
Rob
Reply to  Cobourg taxpayer
14 September 2020 9:20 am

I find it more than a little disturbing that you would know this. I’m not a fan Mr. Hustwick however this really is none of anyone’s business. It’s actually somewhat invasive and creepy.

Cobourg taxpayer
Reply to  Rob
16 September 2020 10:01 pm

In my definition a public servant should be a taxpayer here. Btw I am a taxpayer here for 17 years .

Rob
Reply to  Cobourg taxpayer
17 September 2020 9:31 am

Doesn’t change my opinion regarding your previous statement – this isn’t public information which makes the fact that you know this and choose to share this type of detail quite inappropriate.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Cobourg taxpayer
17 September 2020 4:12 pm

Because I was born and raised here has given me the privilege to know families, like mine, that have lived here for generations and they have paid taxes since the beginning of taxes. That does not provide any advantage over a pseudonym who claims to have paid taxes for 17 years nor a recent resident of 1 year.

Sandpiper
Reply to  Cobourg taxpayer
14 September 2020 8:05 am

TO close and to much Skin is not necessarily a good thing
to much can go under the carpet

Kyle
12 September 2020 7:19 pm

I am betting that this is a short stop for Ms Vaughan to pad her resume with a CAO position. Municipal CAO positions in the Province move around like a checkers game. Unfortunately she has no skin in the game locally.

SW Buyer
Reply to  Kyle
12 September 2020 9:15 pm

Kyle:
Totally disagree. She definitely has skin in the game. She is leaving a good, established, well paying job and betting that her skills, talent and experience will enable her to succeed at a new job in Cobourg. If she fails, it may well be career ending.

Would you rather have a sub par performer looking for a place to rest where their limited skills may not be noticed? Or would you rather have an up and comer, looking to make their mark, knowing that they are unlikely to stay long term?

I prefer that Cobourg be a stepping stone for talent rather than a pasture for the tired and unskilled. That way Cobourg gets good performance and a periodic talent refresh with new energy, ideas and methods. It also helps avoid empire building and corporate culture stagnation

Last edited 2 months ago by SW Buyer
Cobourg taxpayer
Reply to  SW Buyer
13 September 2020 11:54 pm

If there were parameters to determine success for a town CAO I’d love to see them. The last CAO allowed unjustified increases in municipal staffing levels and promotions with salary increases that council, the elected officials, have no control over. New staff to this point had always included a lack of fiscal prudence which is why property taxes increase yet there is no appreciable benefit to the average taxpayer.

SW Buyer
Reply to  Cobourg taxpayer
14 September 2020 9:25 am

A good “CAO” metric would be very useful. Let us know if you find one.
Past Councils are almost entirely to blame for Cobourg’s high taxes. They passed the budgets and did little to “hold the line” Their municipal act mandated oversight was mediocre at best. The former CAO had his own agenda and past Councils turned a blind eye.

You wrote “….The last CAO allowed unjustified increases in municipal staffing levels and promotions with salary increases that council, the elected officials, have no control over….”
I agree in part. Council does have a high degree of control through the budget approval process. Restrict/reduce the budget to control hiring and compensation costs.

Hopefully you and other residents will keep a careful watch and voice your opinions to Council. If you’re not happy with the way things are being done, say so. Take part in the democratic process.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  SW Buyer
14 September 2020 11:16 am

Council and not the CAO must approve all significant expenditures. Council does not set reasonable budget expectations — zero percent increase would be a good start. Council spends on things that are not the town’s responsibility such as affordable housing. Council circumvents the Ontario Municipal Act by using a CIP. Council ignores the obvious fact that increased spending will increase taxes. Council relies on fictions such as “assessment growth” and free money from “Holdco Reserve” to deceive residents. Council approves consultants to produce useless “master plans”. Etc, etc.

Council rather than the CAO should be blamed for our high taxes!

Last edited 2 months ago by Ken Strauss
SW Buyer
Reply to  Ken Strauss
14 September 2020 11:48 am

Ken:

I believe that is what I said “…Past Councils are almost entirely to blame for Cobourg’s high taxes. They passed the budgets and did little to “hold the line” Their municipal act mandated oversight was mediocre at best…”
The CAO is partly to blame, as the CAO owns the budget and is responsible for its preparation. The CAO is also responsible for operations and any budget overspend.
Cobourgers are to blame as well because they sat on their hands and let this happen.
Lots of blame to go around.

Last edited 2 months ago by SW Buyer
Ken Strauss
Reply to  SW Buyer
14 September 2020 2:15 pm

Yes, there is ample blame but…
Council can direct the CAO regarding budget preparation parameters. If Council doesn’t think that the CAO is doing a good job, Council has the power to replace him/her (many nearby communities have done so recently). Council approves the budget so controlling expenditures is part of their job.To blame the CAO for our Council’s poor performance makes no sense.

Cobourg taxpayer
Reply to  SW Buyer
16 September 2020 10:10 pm

“Take part in the democratic process” you have no idea how many local government workshops, surveys, open houses and meetings I have attended and presented to in the 17 years we’ve lived here, often one of very few. If I thought my voice was heard I would not waste my time here because it has made NO Difference!! As this will make no difference it is just venting frustration.

SW Buyer
Reply to  Cobourg taxpayer
16 September 2020 11:14 pm

It is good to learn that you do participate in this local democracy. Sad to learn that your efforts have gone for naught.
Fortunately, others have had a measure of success such as Wally, the POHH, the Dragonboat/Canoe Club and the CTA.

Dunkirk
12 September 2020 2:55 pm

I give Council a lot of credit for going outside our community; employing a professional firm and being able to attract someone from a high-growth, connected, sustainable community like Ajax. Next to our Police Chief–this is probably, the second highest compensated position and it’s recruitment demands some real thought and consideration.
Over the past decade Ajax has grown by a third, while Cobourg holds roughly the same population(and tax base) that we did 3 decades ago..Being east of the GTA, along the lake & the 401 corridor offers some similar parallels of opportunity. Having said that, I hope the new CAO can demand some real honesty in disclosure of some of the painful legacy issues that haunt us and become a real respected resource primarily for of our elected officials.

Keith Oliver
12 September 2020 1:24 pm

What many seem to forget is that we elect others to do the job of governing for us. They do the best job when they take the time and make the effort to become well informed and we, the electorate, do our best job when we make sure they are informed about all the options.

Through my experience with Town Council, especially this one, I trust their choice of Ms Vaughan.

The only question I have is the absence of any institutional history on her part when it comes to that of our town government. Is that a benefit or a handicap? In the meantime … “welcome to Cobourg!”.

Cobourg taxpayer
Reply to  Keith Oliver
12 September 2020 9:38 pm

What is the definition of institutional history? New term for me.

ben
Reply to  Cobourg taxpayer
18 September 2020 7:31 am

Institutional memory is the never forgetting what the institution has been doing in previous years. Usually long term employees and politicians have large memory banks which are used from time to time to remind newcomers what has or has not been successful in the past. Many municipalities do not possess this resource and continue to pursue futile policies and programmes which have been abandoned in the past.

The quote “Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it” is attributed to the American philosopher George Santayana and it can be accurately quoted as “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” as stated in his work, The Life of Reason.

Very apt in this case.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  ben
18 September 2020 12:28 pm

Ben, and some municipalities do possess this resource and continue to pursue futile policies.

Rob
Reply to  ben
18 September 2020 1:30 pm

The most dangerous words in business – “We have always done it that way.” This reminds me of the concept of Institutional Memory. For far too long Government, including the business of running a Municipality, has been directed by members of the White-Haired, Old Boys Club. It is nice to see some degree of diversity in Cobourg – diverse gender, ethnicity and thought.

GailR
12 September 2020 10:57 am

I believe that using an outside specialist firm was absolutely the right way to fill this very important position. I hope that at some point Ms. Vaughan will move to Cobourg. I assume she doesn’t live here at the moment. I would very much prefer not having a commuter CAO.

Frenchy
Reply to  GailR
13 September 2020 11:48 am

I can think of almost a quarter of a million reasons why she would want to move here. 45,000 of them would be extra compelling.

Informed
11 September 2020 4:58 pm

The new CAO appears to be a great person for the position. Just windering why cobourg had to spend that amount to find one. I heard the interim CAO was doing an amazing job, especially during Covid.Also wondering why council conducts interviews for this position? Does Cobourg not have a Human Resources Department?Does Council interview for other positions with the Town as well?

MiriamM
Reply to  Informed
11 September 2020 5:48 pm

As I understand municipal structure and legislation the CAO is Council’s only employee, strictly speaking … so, yes, Council interviews and does the hiring. Things get more complex when Council decides not to have a CAO.

Informed
Reply to  MiriamM
11 September 2020 7:00 pm

Interesting. Still cant believe Human Resources were not part of the committee.Members of Council come and go with elections when CAOs are generally there for years.Perhaps the position could have been listed on the Town website with cobourg full-time staff shortlisting candidates. 30 k for an outside firm??

Last edited 2 months ago by Informed
Rob
Reply to  Informed
14 September 2020 9:14 am

Retained executive search firms would typically charge 30% of the successful candidates annual base compensation or in this case about 67k – they got a bit of a break on the fee.

Cobourg taxpayer
Reply to  MiriamM
16 September 2020 10:21 pm

If the CAO is council’s only employee and the CAO “administers “ the town why do I get the impression that the former CAO “administered “ all previous municipal government hires and promotions apparently without control which is why we have so many municipal government employees today. Why can council not control the hiring practices of the CAO? So they hire him and lose all control?

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Cobourg taxpayer
16 September 2020 10:39 pm

Because some Councillors abrogate their responsibility to the taxpayers? Councillors probably fear that doing their job of proper oversight will mean that staff won’t be helpful and others have personal relationships / friendships with staff. It is often easier to pay blackmail than do what is right. Remember, it is only money and not theirs.

Rob
Reply to  Cobourg taxpayer
17 September 2020 9:36 am

What has been the net increase in headcount year over year? If there has been an increase in either direct or indirect labour, do we understand why? By the sound of this comment, I would assume we have Municipal employees leaning on brooms and playing solitaire all over Cobourg – which I doubt.

Bryan
Reply to  Informed
11 September 2020 7:08 pm

Hiring a CAO is the same as hiring a company president or CEO. HR may do some of the basic work but the board of directors (Council) does the critical work, usually with the assistance of a search firm. The CAO typically hires their direct reports, not council, although a smart CAO would “involve” Council.