By Trevor Busch
Taber town council has selected a chief administrative officer (CAO) for the Town of Taber, and the new man is actually a familiar face from within the existing ranks of the organization.
Following closed session (in camera) discussion at a January 16 special meeting, town council approved the appointment of planning director Cory Armfelt to the vacant CAO role, which became available in September 2016 when council declined to renew former CAO Greg Birch’s contract. Armfelt will be taking over the position on Jan. 31.
“Of course we feel he’s the right candidate for the job, otherwise we wouldn’t have selected him,” said Mayor Henk DeVlieger in an interview following the Jan. 16 meeting. “We ran this whole process through Hire Standard, we hired them to scout and find somebody. I think in the end, looking at his qualities — he’s a good team leader, we know him of course because he’s been working for the Town of Taber for quite a while already. So we know his strengths and weaknesses, and I think in the end he will be a good fit for our town to move forward.”
Since 2013, Armfelt has worked with the town as director of planning and economic development, and previously worked for the town as a contractor within that scope.
“I am pleased to accept the position of chief administrative officer, and I look forward to working with council, town staff, and all citizens as we move forward with many new initiatives and projects within the Town of Taber,” said Armfelt in a press release. “Taber has many opportunities that I am excited to explore as I transition into my new position.”
When it was announced that the town would be seeking a new CAO in June 2016, DeVlieger said council would use an independent consultant (Hire Standard) and would like to have the new person start in mid-September 2016, while contending that beginning the hiring process in mid-summer would allow enough time to select a candidate to fill the role. This timeline was obviously not met by the town, and DeVlieger reflected on some of the reasons for the unusual length of the process.
“I really cannot go too much into detail, but we had Hire Standard, and there was more candidates. Cory (Armfelt) actually came a little later in the picture due to personal circumstances he had. Basically as council we wanted to take our time to make the right decision. That might have been lengthy, but we felt comfortable with that, because we had these three guys in place to be acting CAO, and that was working very well. So we said to each other let’s take the time, let’s make the right decision to move forward. So that’s probably why it became a little bit more lengthy.”
When pressed for details on the number of candidates for the position that were reviewed by council, DeVlieger was non-committal.
“There was a number of them.”
While ultimately choosing to select an internal candidate to fill the role despite having contracted a human resources firm to assist with the hiring process, DeVlieger was unable to say how much this cost taxpayers, but noted that in his view it was “money well spent.”
“I’m not quite sure, I didn’t see the invoice yet. But they were quite involved, even with the hiring internally. We followed their whole process. It was quite a bit involved — you hire a company like that, they do this very professional. We hired this company before when we hired our new CFO (chief financial officer). It was money well spent.”
As a condition of his contract, according to DeVlieger, Armfelt is preparing to relocate to the community.
“Yes, that is part of his contract that he has to live in Taber. He is already looking around, and within six months of his being hired. As council, we feel that just to get a complete feel for the community itself, if you just come eight hours to work, you never get a complete feel of what lives in the community. But if you live here, you’re involved. I think it will really help his decision making. I think as council we’re going to look at that, but I think we want to start taking that position more with other management positions.”
According to the minutes of the January 16 special meeting, the vote by council to approve Armfelt’s employment contract was not unanimous.
“It was not unanimous, but it was pretty well unanimous,” said DeVlieger. “I think there was one (opposing vote).”
Serving during the interim, DeVlieger thanked acting CAOs Devon Wannop, Gary Scherer and Armfelt for maintaining an efficient operation. Until Jan. 31, this triumvirate will continue to fulfill the CAO role.
“It is thanks to their efforts that council was able to take the necessary amount of time to find the right individual to fill the position, and their commitment has been invaluable to both council and the staff of the Town of Taber,” said DeVlieger in a press release.
Taking on a management position in the organization involving more than a 100 employees and managers will be a daunting task for the former planning manager.
“We’re definitely happy with his knowledge, his experience, and the skills he has to be a manager,” said DeVlieger. “One of the main things with a CAO is to be a good team leader. You’re running a business of over 100 people, so it takes some (skills). All I’m saying is it’s a very responsible job to run an organization with over 100 people. It takes a special person.”
Editor’s Note: Watch for an upcoming feature on Armfelt in his new role as CAO in a subsequent edition of The Taber Times.