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Representing Ontario’s CAOs – Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow

Presented by Glenn Schwendinger
in Governance, Leadership

On a Saturday morning in May 1958, nine municipal administrators came together at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto to discuss forming a small association of Chief Administrative Officers (CAOs) that would meet periodically and assist in the promotion of better local government.

Thanks to founding members from Brantford, Cornwall, Galt, Guelph, Kingston, Kitchener, St. Catharines, Sarnia, and Sault Ste. Marie, the Municipal Chief Administrative Officials Association of Ontario was formed – subsequently renamed the Ontario Municipal Administrators’ Association (OMAA).

On the agenda for that morning’s meeting: Aims and Objectives of Proposed Association. As recorded in the meeting minutes, the result of the conversation that ensued led to the association’s objective to meet annually and exchange information and to discuss matters of interest to municipal officials.

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2018 represents OMAA’s 60th anniversary year, with the association still going strong, and having a mission statement that remains based on the premise of exchange amongst colleagues: to provide professional development, services, support, and networking opportunities, which enable members to be the best they can be in serving the public as municipal executives.

What started at the Royal York with a handful of like-minded administrative leaders has evolved to approximately 375 Chief Administrative Officers in the province today.

OMAA is proud to have played a role in supporting CAOs over the years and promoting the contribution made by CAOs every day in good governance for Ontario municipalities.

But, in looking back, one can’t help but look ahead. OMAA realizes the future is about the association’s “Associate-A” members. (“A” in this instance stands for aspiring.) These are indeed the next generation of Ontario CAOs requiring tailored professional development, services, support, and networking opportunities. Recent OMAA activities have been influenced and changed to reflect these needs. The OMAA Board recognizes the responsibility of current CAOs in succession planning and sees the active role that the association can play in assisting today’s CAOs, while also shaping the next generation. In turn, special Associate-A professional development programming and opportunities for information exchange between CAOs and aspiring CAOs is now very much a focus.

Still, there is more to do. Encouraging students to consider the merits of a municipal career is yet another objective for OMAA. Promoting the gratification and self satisfaction available through public service leadership at the local level is an important responsibility for today’s CAOs. OMAA’s participation in CAMA’s cross-Canada “Making Life Happen” toolkit and the annual award of OMAA’s $5,000 bursary are two initiatives that the association has embraced. Showcasing the dynamic work and fulfilment available to those who choose to take up the municipal management challenge is now an intrinsic part of yearly activity.

Like the members it represents, OMAA does not just think about the past. Looking to develop tomorrow’s CAOs is an exciting opportunity for today!

as published in Municipal World, January 2019

Municipal World Insider and Executive Members: You might also be interested in Nabil Harfoush and Jo Flatt’s article: Planning for the future in Canada’s mid-sized cities. Note that you can now access the complete collection of past articles (and more) from your membership dashboard.

Glenn Schwendinger is President of the Ontario Municipal Administrators’ Association ( and is the CAO for the Township of Perth East, Ontario.

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