This fall, watch for a Canadian reality show favourite set to return in October. Combining the elements of The Amazing Race Canada and The Apprentice, contestants vie for incredible jobs by convincing employers to replace the incumbents with the contenders. Want to give it a try? Then, let’s look at one of the available jobs, such as mayor of a major municipality.
Caledon Mayor Alan Thompson took time to tell Peel Region Review about himself and to give some idea of what’s involved in a mayor’s job.
The cowboy boots give away his rural roots. He grew up on a Caledon farm settled by his ancestors back in the 1820s. After studying agriculture at Guelph University, he took on the family dairy business for a time before yielding to a powerful itch to enter public service instead.
For him, that was the right decision. He won several terms on council and then, went for and won the big job, when Mayor Morrison retired. Outgoing by nature, Thompson simply loves everything about the job, especially meeting people and mingling.
“I’m up at 5:30, an early riser after 30 years milking cows,” he says, with a chuckle. “Best time to get work done writing emails.”
His eyes light up as he continues.
“Then I’m out meeting with residents and businesses. I get to the local coffee shop to find out what’s going on around town, to hear the scuttlebutt.”
Describing council’s twice-yearly public meetup initiative called Coffees with Council, he says, “It’s about engagement. We go to community centres, coffee shops, to businesses and say, ‘Hey, how are we doing?’”
What kind of background looks good on a resume?
“I grew up in a family that always gave back and volunteering was important. In rural communities, you always look after your neighbours and they look after you. I volunteered, served on a number of farm organizations where I got to work with councils on the political side of things. I served on some provincial boards, on commodity groups, the Ontario Soybean Growers, Grain Farmers of Ontario, the Holstein Association, some milk committees, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture.”
Thompson explains that it’s best to serve on council before jumping into the mayor’s seat, to understand government processes.
“Yes, it’s about leadership,” he says. ”But there’s a big difference between running a business and managing in a government institution.”
He thought, with his business acumen he was going to turn the town around after gaining a council seat.
“It’s not quite that easy,” he laughs. “Because municipal governments are a product of the province. There’s a lot of structure to learn.”
Thompson shares something important he discovered about being mayor.
“As mayor, I’m also the CEO of a corporation so I no longer have an opinion,” he said. “I speak on behalf of the corporation. As a councillor, you still have your individuality but, I found as mayor, it was a big change because you now have to stand and defend council decisions whether you like the decisions or not.”
What’s a typical mayor’s day?
“Generally, I’m in here most days at 8:30, 9 o’clock, sometimes later depending on my morning routine. There’s always a lot going on. It’s a revolving door, constant meetings, working with staff, trying to get a good handle on what the issues are. Every night of the week, there are events of every kind that you can imagine. Sometimes, I run close to a hundred hours.”
Think you have what it takes? Then your municipality needs people like you. Click here for the 2018 candidates’ guide. And good luck!