Norfolk County has hired an interim CAO with extensive experience at the regional and metropolitan level.
Harry Schlange, 61, was the head bureaucrat in Niagara Region from 2013 until he accepted the top administrative job in the City of Brampton in 2016.
Last December, new Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown announced that his city council had decided to “part ways” with Schlange.
Schlange takes over from former Norfolk CAO David Cribbs, who left Governor Simcoe Square in mid-January. His appointment took effect on April 8.
“Interest in municipal politics is at an all-time high in Norfolk County,” Mayor Kristal Chopp said in a news release.
“Residents have spoken loud and clear in favour of change. Schlange is just the kind of authentic leader we need to help deliver that change and modernize the corporation.”
The mayor added that Schlange will help Norfolk compete “for talent, ideas and innovation.”
“He understands how communities like ours need to differentiate themselves and eliminate any and all barriers to progress,” Chopp says. “That’s what makes him the right leader for this community.”
Appointing an interim replacement took on some urgency in recent weeks after senior staff warned they are spreading themselves too thin.
Last week, division managers reported that a CAO has knowledge of county files that they do not. As such, the recent routine of appointing general managers to wear the CAO hat on a rotating basis was not working.
Staff told council March 26 that important items and issues were sitting idle and multiplying due to the increased workload. During an in-camera session at the same meeting, council opted to hire a CAO on an interim basis.
Schlange has had a bumpy ride in recent years. The St. Catharines Standard reported three years ago that he survived an in-camera confidence vote at Niagara Region shortly before he accepted the CAO position in Brampton.
Before Schlange left Niagara Region, his resignation letter to council was leaked to the media.
In the letter, he said the region’s leadership was too timid and that some council members did not bring a constructive mindset to the table. Schlange said his job had become more difficult than it needed to be.
“I have observed actions and behaviours at the leadership level that run contrary to these efforts and inhibit my ability to continue to deliver on the commitments I have made to you,” he said.
“Instead of feeling empowered to take bold steps, we are beginning to find ourselves in an organization that is overwhelmed by the threat of strong repercussions and fearful to take even the most calculated risks.”