St. Albert’s city administration went through a reorganization this week. Development services manager Gilles Prefontaine and Maya Pungur-Buick, the general manager for the corporate and strategic services division, no longer work for the city of St. Albert.
Although the hiring of Prefontaine was controversial – he was a sitting councillor at the time – this restructuring likely has less to do with individuals and more to do with a popular business phrase: moving forward.
St. Albert has a new city manager in Kevin Scoble, recently hired after an extensive hiring process. It’s well within his role to make personnel decisions and try to improve the city’s senior management.
“We’re stabilizing the organization in a more traditional structure,” Scoble said. “It’s innovative where it needs to be, but also traditional where it needs it.”
Bringing a fresh perspective and looking for efficiencies are good things for any manager to do.
In St. Albert, the city is currently undergoing a municipal inspection with a report expected in the fall. The process for an inspection comes from concerns about friction between council members and staff, as well as council stepping too far into day-to-day administration issues.
While we don’t have that report yet, it’s safe to say that municipal inspections aren’t conducted without good reason to do so. There are concerns about the way the city is governed and interactions between administration and city staff. Some would point to the controversy surrounding the hiring of Prefontaine as a prime example.
There has also been a fair amount of mistrust from residents in the way the city has been governed, both with council and past administrations. A new city manager gives an opportunity for a new way of doing business. While Scoble can’t restructure city council, voters will get the chance to weigh in in October.
Given that both Mayor Nolan Crouse and Coun. Tim Osborne won’t be running for re-election, we’re guaranteed some fresh perspectives on council as well. By mid-October, St. Albert’s city council and administration will look very different than they did in October 2016.
That’s not to say that change is always good – there are good examples in other levels of government to point to – but sometimes change is necessary. Many residents have grown distrustful of the way they are governed and we see this through their actions and through presentations to council. This week’s administration changes might be just the beginning, as we could see more changes once the municipal inspection results are released.
We expect the municipal inspection will give insight into the way our council members have behaved. Given this council’s history of dysfunction, this report should provide useful insight for voters in October. The new city manager is rebuilding city administration and residents will get to reshape a new city council.
It’s time for St. Albert Council to move forward from some of the mistakes and controversies of the past and to rebuild citizens’ trust in their local government.