Tillsonburg’s new Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) has returned ‘home’ after accepting the position with the Town of Tillsonburg several weeks ago.
First-time CAO, David Calder, grew up in Oxford County and is happy to return to the area as Tillsonburg’s top administrator.
“This is day 15, so I’ve been here three weeks,” said Calder Friday. “Council’s been very receptive to my arrival, the staff has been great in terms of helping me learn about the organization and then the community as a whole. I’ve been out, I’ve met with the seniors groups, I’ve met with the chamber, I’ve met the executive director of the BIA. The town is very friendly but more importantly, my arrival brings some opportunities and ideas from other workplaces, other municipalities in order to help improve public service here in Tillsonburg.”
Calder studied at university and graduated with a degree in Political Science and Public Administration. His mother, Wendy Calder, was mayor of Woodstock and he was thus exposed to politics at an early age and brings with him a varied background and an array of experience to his new role. In previous years, Calder held positions with the City of York (now Toronto), Peel Region, the City of Cambridge, the City of Waterloo.
During his first sit-down interview with The Tillsonburg News, Calder cited areas he would like to focus on over the next few months.
“One of the things we’re looking at right now is the budget, how to create a budget that within these fiscal times is fiscally responsible and something that hopefully at the end of the day, the public will see value for their money that they provide in taxes.
“Another area I’m interested in is public engagement – we’re in a society now where participatory democracy is demanded. Yes, you elected your elected representatives but people want to be involved and should be involved.
“Municipal government is the government closest to the people, we’re accessible to them. So they should feel comfortable to be able to come and talk to people, raise their concerns, have the ear of the politicians through council meetings and delegations,” explained Calder. “So I’m hoping to drive that a little more so that people can get involved if they want and have input.”
In addition, Calder is looking forward to familiarizing himself with the community, getting to know its people and what their expectations are for him as their new CAO.
“The community is great. I sense that there’s progression there, they want to be innovative but we have to provide some of the tools to help move that along,” said Calder. “It’s a bit of a hidden gem - Tillsonburg and this area. We have a great downtown here and I think it’s a place that can become a destination for people and a great community to come and live in.”
Part of meeting his new responsibilities and expectations from and to the community means sharing his views and perspectives about his new role.
“The openness and transparency isn’t just on the political side, it’s also on the administrative side. I want people to feel comfortable in talking to staff and to talking to the administration here at the town,” Calder said.
“The other part for me is the message ‘we’re open for business’ - we want to promote the economy here, we want to help business succeed. On a personal side – I grew up in Woodstock, I have family in the county still and this is like coming home a little bit in terms of it’s familiar territory.”
Calder was asked how he intends to fill the shoes of former CAO Kelley Coulter, but instead noted how he intends to bring a fresh perspective and outlook on the town and his new job.
“I’ve come in with a clean slate to lead in the way that I have led in the past. I start from day one and move forward,” said Calder. “I don’t look backwards to see what’s gone on in the past, try to fill any shoes or change my leadership style.”
As the new CAO for the Town of Tillsonburg, Calder said he sees himself leading the administrative side of an organization and in providing that strong leadership, will ensure that council gets the best expertise and information they can from he and town staff, in order for him and the town to implement council decisions.
“The other role for me I think too is to be leader in community – building partnerships, networks. It’s also building up collaborative efforts so if there’s ways to partner with the community to do certain things, or the with the business community about how to make processes better or more streamlined.
“You can’t please everybody all the time so I think sometimes you’ll do great, other times there’ll be some friction but that’s all healthy,” he concluded. “I think for me, it’s just to make sure that I do the best job I can for the community, for council and for staff.”