ARICHAT: The new Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) for Richmond County has been busy in his first seven weeks on the job.
After being selected by Richmond Municipal Council late last year and signing a five-year contract, Kent MacIntyre officially started at the beginning of January.
Since his start, MacIntyre has been busy reading, researching and meeting with staff to get caught up on current files. He has also been working on last year’s audit and preparing for the upcoming budget which he anticipates will be ready by April.
“It’s been a pretty hectic six weeks,” MacIntyre stated. “We have a $14 million budget and so we’re digging in on preparations for a new fiscal year budget…”
After six years and two months on the job, Richmond County’s former CAO Warren Olsen resigned from his post in October, 2016. The announcement came two days after the municipality publicized the findings of a forensic audit regarding expenses incurred on credit cards issued between April 1, 2011 and March 30, 2016.
Olsen described “constant harassment on social media” as a key factor in his resignation.
These developments occurred against the backdrop of a long-awaited forensic audit which included several questionable travel and mileage expense claims by councillors and staff. The audit also red-flagged air travel upgrades, alcohol and adult night club expenses, as well as cases where meal per diems were claimed while credit card expenses were charged for the same period.
“My job here is to work with council, to turn the corner, start to rebuild our confidence within the community and with our municipal affairs friends,” MacIntyre said.
When applying for the position, the 62-year-old Sydney native saw it as both a challenge he could handle and an opportunity to move back to Cape Breton.
MacIntyre started at the Cape Breton Development Corporation and soon after was elected as an alderman for the City of Sydney, then became acting mayor. He was later named CEO of Seagull Pewter in Pugwash, a post he held for approximately eight years. MacIntyre then taught part-time at St. Mary’s University, before moving to Saint John, New Brunswick.
“I’m used to federal government processes,” he noted. “Being in municipal politics as an elected official, I was aware of that, and then corporate experience.
“I’m lucky I have a rounded background with various companies but they’re all connected to detailed processes and approval processes, so I’m used to being strategic and working with government entities.”
The new CAO said the obstacles in his new position are budget related, such as priority lists for capital expenditures. To overcome these pitfalls, MacIntyre wants the municipality to undertake a comprehensive asset management strategy. For example, Richmond County has to do upgrades to the municipal office in Arichat, as well as to Richmond Arena in Louisdale.
“We need to know the life cycle of a lot of our investments,” MacIntyre noted. “Sewers and waters, some of them are 40 years old and we need to know what’s the life span and start planning future expenditures.
“We need to know what costs are coming at us in the years to come so we can either start building reserves or strategically spending in certain ways.”
The new CAO also wants the municipality to help improve broadband Internet and cellular coverage, commenting that service in some parts of the county is unacceptable.
MacIntyre said another priority is to undertake a strategic plan for the municipality that should cover a period of three to five years. As part of the process, he said the municipality has formed a Continuous Improvement Team made up of administrative staff and workers in the field tasked with finding efficiencies.
“We’ll want to look at everything from how we’re going to proceed with capital expenditures, how we’re going to move forward with the resources that we need, do we have square pegs in square holes in all our operations? How do we introduce efficiencies?” MacIntyre said of the strategic planning process.
Long-term plans for Richmond’s new CAO include tax base growth and increasing employment by working with the Cape Breton Regional Enterprise Network, the Cape Breton Partnership and Nova Scotia Business Inc.
“Jobs will be a major factor in increasing population,” MacIntyre said. “If you can create jobs, then you’ve got people moving into your county, into your communities.”
Other long-term goals for MacIntyre include increasing revenue and cutting expenses. One way to accomplish those goals is by divesting municipal property. He said council has already sold property along Veterans’ Memorial Drive in Arichat, at the Light Industrial Park in Lennox Passage, and plans are underway to sell the Arichat courthouse and the former fire hall in St. Peter’s.
As reasons for his optimism in the future of the municipality, MacIntyre pointed to the potential from the Heavy Industrial Park in Point Tupper.
“There’s no question that Richmond County has a bright future,” MacIntyre noted. “It’s gone through some speed bumps in the last 24-36 months but I’m a firm believer that the county’s best days are ahead of it. We’ve got a lot to offer our citizens and visitors.
“We’ve got terrific staff. We’ve got a council that’s progressive and wanting to move forward and those are the ingredients for future success.”
Aside from economic potential, MacIntyre sees great possibilities in the people and places of Richmond County.
“When I look around the county, we’ve got some nice communities; everything from Fourchu, to St. Peter’s, to Evanston, to Isle Madame here,” he added. “There’s absolutely wonderful communities, and man, they are committed to going forward.”