Busy and interesting first year on the job
One of the most important positions in St. Marys is being the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) of the Town of St. Marys. Brent Kittmer holds this position and since he has been on the job for just over a year, we sat down with him to find out how the first year went. Kittmer said that he has “achieved a career goal” by being the CAO in St. Marys. “Having been born and raised in this area, I appreciate what it means to live and work in this community” Kittmer said. He graduated from DCVI and lives in St. Marys with his wife Karen and his two sons Dylan (4) and Jakob (2). After graduating from high school, he obtained a degree from UWO in Chemical Engineering. He joined Cami Automotive as an Environmental Engineer and later joined the Municipality of Bluewater in August 2009 as their Utilities Manager. In February 2012 he joined the Municipality of Lambton Shores as their Director of Community Services. He says that at this point his career goal was to be CAO for the Town of St. Marys, and to further his career in a municipal career he obtained a Masters degree in Public Administration from UWO in 2014. In July 2015 he was offered and accepted the position of CAO in St. Marys
Kittmer said that his first year on the job was both rewarding and busy. He said after close to 10 years of working outside of the area that working locally gave him a renewed perspective on life in St. Marys. “People here do not relate to “amalgamation” of municipalities because they have never been through it, and that’s a good thing” Kittmer said. He said that the “people of St. Marys truly love St. Marys and have community pride, and that is one thing I re-remembered since returning here”. He had high praise for the Mayor and Council in St. Marys in how they not only operate in a business-like manner but also how Council meetings are conducted. ‘The Municipalities I worked for previously seem to have major dissentions and always seem to be at loggerheads with each other on issues”.
As far as his first year was concerned, he said that he was pleased that the downtown construction was completed and work on the Water Street Bridge is nearing completion. He said another major achievement was the total re-structuring and reorganization of the Town’s staff. “This was a big challenge that we worked on internally and I think it was achieved without significantly affecting the public”. One disappointment in his first year was not “completing the Strategic Plan. I feel like I should have done more to get this in front of Council faster, but it will be done this year”. Kittmer said that the plans going forward in 2017 include more infrastructure projects including Emily Street and the Wellington Street Bridge. “With the amount of money we have spent and will spend in the future, refining our Asset Management Plan to be best in class is a priority to protect all we have done” Kittmer said. He said that a priority in the future will be improving the downtown core. “I can envision transforming the downtown into a “cultural place” by using and improving the alley ways and the nooks and crannies to our advantage”. He added that the downtown has a lot to offer and that the Town should be utilizing the waterways to the Town’s advantage to further enhance the local tourism business.
On the subject of attracting new businesses to town, Kittmer has very definite plans. “When we conducted our research after Heinz announced its closure we were told that with the economy the way it is, the day of a big businesses moving to town is likely to be more determined by their business preferences rather than by the efforts of the Town to attract them. Knowing this, we need to have a different perspective on the situation. Our strategy needs to be that we are ready for them when they are ready for us. Our business retention and expansion study has told us that our greatest potential in St. Marys is for small to medium businesses,” Kittmer said. His plan includes not only small business retention strategies to help existing businesses, but a plan for small business set up. “Ideally the Town should have turn-key industrial lots for new businesses and have land available whenever a new business comes to investigate locating here”. The plan would also include having serviced land available to make it an easy transition for new companies starting up their business here. Kittmer said that supporting new and existing businesses will be a top priority for him and his staff.