Facts About “A Tale of Two Cities” A Comparison Between Lacombes & Chestermeres Approach to Hiring a New CAO

Recently it was brought to our attention that a small site took issue with the facts supplied in our article “A Tale Of Two Cities: How Chestermere is Spending $100K More Than Lacombe To Find a New CAO“.   Given the outrageous claims in the article, we felt compelled to provide the facts.

Please note that is trying to stay out of Municipal politics.  In Chestermere’s case specifically, we know that the new Council will make mistakes but that those mistakes will be well intentioned and not malicious.

Claim: Chestermere Is In Too Much of a Hurry To Handle Its Own CAO Search:

This is perhaps the strangest claim made in the article so we will deal with it first.  Our original article made three fundamental points;

  1. Lacombe will do their CAO search much faster than Chestermere
  2. Lacombe will do their CAO search for somewhere between $100K and $200K less than Chestermere
  3. Temporary staff, almost by their very definition, will not develop meaningful changes

The simple fact is that even though Lacombe started their CAO search after Chesteremere did, Lacombe has already hired a new CAO. Chestermere is still spending $27,000 on a person (who we are sure is a smart, qualified but temporary CAO) that has not made any notable changes to the city that any other CAO wouldn’t have done.

Beyond this we found it odd to imply that Lacombe isn’t in a hurry to get their CAO work done.  Clearly this is inaccurate; Lacombe is done and Chestermere isn’t.



A Tale Of Two Cities: How Chestermere is Spending $100K More Than Lacombe To Find a New CAO

In a vacuum it is often difficult to see the value of one city’s processes over another.  There are always differences that outsiders do not understand.  However, there are unique situations in which very similar cities perform the same task at the same time but one costs radically more.  We found just such a circumstance and are comparing the search for a City Manager in Chestermere with that in Lacombe.

Let’s start by showing their similarities:

  • Both are similar size cities in Alberta
  • Both have very similar annual budgets
  • Both are located just outside major cities (Calgary & Edmonton)



A Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) is the ONLY employee of your City Council.  Under the Alberta Municipal Government Act (MGA) those elected to Council are explicitly forbidden from giving direction to staff; only the CAO can hire, fire and direct staff.  The CAO is sometimes referred to as the City Manager and that is a good description.  CAO’s must be intimately familiar with the Alberta MGA and generally well connected in the municipal political sphere.

Put simply the CAO prevents elected officials from breaking the law and translates the will of City Council into action with city staff, so it is an important position to be sure.

The real question should be “how much is that position worth” but that is a discussion for another day.  Today, we are looking at what it costs to hire them and we think you will be startled by the numbers.  Specifically, what are the costs incurred between the time the old CAO left and the new CAO started.