MULGRAVE: It may be her first go around with municipal administration but Mulgrave’s new Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) is no stranger to the wider community and is used to meeting with A board of directors in closed meetings, so public sessions with a gallery will be a new experience.
Former auditor with the College of the North Atlantic and Marine Atlantic in Newfoundland, Darlene Berthier Sampson took over from Jim Davis as the CAO of the Town of Mulgrave on January 7. Berthier Sampson said council, staff, and residents have been extremely welcoming and helpful in getting her settled in.
Berthier Sampson, who started working with the town three weeks ago, said she’s had the good fortune of working with Davis in transitioning into the position. Davis, who has 38-years of municipal government experience, 28 of which spent as the director of finance with the Town of Port Hawkesbury, announced his retirement in November.
Berthier Sampson grew up in Richmond County and earned her business degree at StFX University. By profession she’s a Chartered Professional Accountant, Certified General Accountant and a Certified Internal Auditor.
She said she has quickly come to realize that although it’s in a different steam than her prior experience, municipal administration is very similar.
“I gained fantastic operational experience with both organizations; heading up safety, maintenance, procurement, labour relations, human resources, policy/b-ylaw, and efficiency audits,” she explained. “The biggest adjustment is likely just the pace because I am doing both the CAO and [Chief Financial Officer] roles. Between both, the role is very busy.”
Berthier Sampson says she plans on being with the town for the long-term allowing her to get traction with planning projects, building partnerships, maintaining a balanced budget, and availing all opportunities, programs, and grants.
“The town will need to look at where it locates its permanent administration office and promoting the expression of interest for the Mulgrave Education Centre is an ongoing priority,” she said. “Concerted efforts to find procurement efficiencies, where successful, will help build operating reserves. The town needs to tout its strengths.”
Berthier Sampson believes there has been too much media focus on the community’s challenges and not enough about its great attributes like the fact that it offers an amazing outdoor playground, affordable housing, great water, great views, low taxes, and is strategically located between two larger centers, Port Hawkesbury and Antigonish.
“It has an abundance of assets to work with in addressing many of its challenges,” she said. “To start with, it has a very committed council, long time dedicated and knowledgeable staff and a commercial client base that is very successful and well respected.”
Berthier Sampson said Mulgrave is a beautiful town with fantastic views of the Strait. The people are warm and welcoming, there is a strong spirit of community and volunteerism among residents, and it’s a great community with great people.
“I was interested in the position because it’s a great chance to make an impact with my work, use my skills and education, engage in municipal government administration and work locally,” she said. “I have a lot of education and experience in governance, risk management, auditing, accounting, and finance in both the public and private sector. I found numerous opportunities for financial efficiencies and enhancements to administration frameworks during the years I audited.”