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Archive: CAO quits after four months

Originally published Nov. 1, 2005
Harry Schlange (rhymes with dang) will leave his post as the town’s chief administrative officer after four months on the job.

“Schlanger” will resume a career in the private sector with a world-wide business consulting firm Accenture. He left IBM Canada to assume the CAO’s position in July.

“They heard I had left IBM” and began courting him with offers that he resisted until “they packaged an offer with a broad scope of responsibilities that is a good opportunity for my family in the long run.”

He won’t say how much he will make with Accenture but it is probably significantly more than the $123,000 annual salary from the town plus an equity position in the company with $15-billion in revenue and 100,000 employees.

His last day of work for the town will be Nov. 10.

“Very” describes Mayor Wayne Redekop’s level of disappointment at Schlange’s resignation.

“But what are we going to do? We’re trying to compete with private sector companies for top executives and we don’t have the resources to do it,” he said.

People choose a public service career out of a sense of commitment to community and public welfare, he said, “but there comes a point where money supersedes even that.”

Planning director Rino Mostacci will assume the CAO job until a new one is hired.

Redekop said the consultant who assisted with the last hunt for a CAO has been contacted, “and they are on the file.”

The mayor had met with all town staff last week to tell them personally of Schlange’s departure “and to make the commitment to them to continue on with the changes and the initiatives that have been undertaken.”

Speaking informally, many rank and file staff were impressed with Schlange. His style was to turn a hierarchical top-down management structure into something more collaborative.

“They saw a different type of leadership,” Schlange said. “That doesn’t mean there’s not better people out there to lead than me.”

He allowed employees to have open conversations and give them opportunities to generate ideas.

“The best companies in the world nurture an environment that employees are the ones that make the decisions and come up with the ideas and they have more passion to deliver those on time or on budget.”

It was easy in Fort Erie “because these guys have a lot more passion than what I’ve seen in other organizations,” he said.

“If you compress that in a hierarchical organization you’re losing a lot of that capacity.”

The suggestion that government be run like a business is an “oversimplification,” he said. “But some of the basic principles — how you treat employees and the paying public — would apply.”

The most dissimilar part is dealing with council.

“Things like legal services — that’s just an example — in the private sector, you wouldn’t question that. And our staff spent probably 40 hours on that.”

The council runs a corporation with very broad responsibilities and delivers 60-70 per cent of government services.

With only 32 per cent of eligible voters casting a ballot in the last election, people don’t seem to appreciate the importance of voting.

“You really should go out and vote and pick the best possible people,” he said.

He also notes that often the best people who are capable of running a corporation the size of the municipality don’t run.

“And you have to wonder why. . . we have to find out why they are getting turned off.”

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