(WINDSOR, ON) – Of late, Helga Reidel, the person who basically runs the city as its chief administrative officer (CAO), seems to be increasing her media presence. She is often seen on news reports talking about city issues.
It is not a good idea.
She should be seen, not heard, simply because she was not elected. That ineffective councillor, and now interim mayor, Drew Dilkens allows this is simply another example of him abdicating his responsibilities to taxpayers.
Reidel, by seeking her fifteen minutes of fame, may not realize she is setting herself up for scrutiny. Those motivated enough to peek at her background find some discouraging information.
She graduated as a primary junior educator from the University of Windsor, in a move that seemed quite the career change. Earlier, she earned a commerce degree and was later chartered as an accountant.
Curiously, her appointment to her current position signalled a change in direction for failed former mayor Eddie Francis. Those who came before her were not accountants. Possibly for good reason.
Dennis Perlin, who served from 2002 to 2004, currently holds a public administration post-graduate degree. His replacement, John Skorobohacz, 2004 to 2009, has a public administration diploma on top of a political science degree.
It is hard to understand why Francis, during a jobs crisis, would put an accountant in charge.
Granted, some communities are run by bookkeepers, but not all. Middlesex County’s CAO has a post-graduate degree in public administration. In Guelph, so does Ann Pappert, who actually spent time in Windsor.
Some cities pick people with specific skills to deal with important community needs. Waterloo’s CAO, a town planner, will oversee the city’s newly-established Integrated Planning Centre of Excellence.
Other municipalities are quite frank about the need for leaders with economic development experience. One is the Town of Caledon. It is currently seeking an administrator to, “… spearhead the successful economic development of the Town.”
Reidel has never admitted to having a wealth of economic development expertise. Prior to her appointment, she held positions in the finance office.
On the city’s website, a list of her current chores is mostly financial. Near the end is the quizzical, “… support economic development initiatives.” No explanation is offered.
Its ranking suggests it is an afterthought, or lip service, your choice, and is not surprising.
Over much of the Francis council’s reign, the city has lead the nation in unemployment. It could be argued, Reidel’s appointment is another indication the council has no real economic development interest. This, too, is no surprise, given Dilkens ran council’s economic development standing committee into the ground.
By backing the hiring of Reidel, the council was again, allegedly, smacking taxpayers in the face, particularly those unable to find work.
Councillors thinking it is quite dandy for Reidel to be in the spotlight might not understand her being there lessens their importance. This too is not surprising.
During the period Francis ran the city, he gave more and more power to Reidel and her crew though a number of measures, including revising by-law 208-2008. Dilkens has not moved to change a situation that is now out of hand.
Administrators have carte blanche to spend as they like on city frivolities, like next year’s short swimming competition, without council oversight on any item under $100,000.
Windsor needs a more active council and a top civil servant properly educated and trained to deal with the city’s most pressing issue; jobs.
Having a bean counter, when there are fewer and fewer beans to count, is unfathomable.
Robert Tuomi can be heard at 8:30 pm every Monday evening and noon every Wednesday co-hosting Talkin’ ‘Bout Windsor on CJAM 99.1 FM. Listen on demand to previous episodes or catch the discussion live and join in. Talkin’ ‘Bout Windsor is broadcast every Monday and Wednesday to the Windsor and Detroit listening area and streamed online at CJAM.