Reflections on Working in a Municipality

I recently was asked to discuss, “Managing Your Career from Start to Finish”, with the graduating class of the University of Western’s Municipal Public Administration program.

To prepare for it, I was asked to reflect on the trajectory of my career and provide some thoughts and tips I might have on launching a municipal career.  

It was an interesting task – not one I’d really given much thought to before. 

The graduates were surprised to learn, that when I first became interested in a career in municipal government, many municipalities in rural Ontario were managed by husband-and-wife teams.  Not good financial management at all but back then it worked.  

This is a far cry from the professionalism municipalities deliver today.  While constant changes in legislation are frustrating to municipalities, they really have served to improve municipalities over time.

When my local husband-and-wife team announced their impending retirements, I started taking the AMCTO Municipal Administration Courses and going to Council meetings – not only to understand municipal operations better, but also so the Council would get to know me.  And it worked!  

I applied and my first municipal job was as Clerk/Treasurer/Tax Collector of my local municipality.  

So, here’s some strategies that may help you land your first municipal job

Do some homework;

  • Research the municipality and the department of interest
  • What are the issues? What key projects are they working on?
  • Go to a Council meeting in person once things open again so Council and staff will start to get to know you, or watch some online to understand the protocols
  • Volunteer to help at municipal/community events
  • Look for a summer job in the municipality to get a feel for what it’s like to work there
  • Ask if you can job shadow the CAO for a day (at no charge) 
  • Investigate OMAA Bursary program  It’s a Bursary program offering $5,000 annually to support the education of future municipal government leaders and promote the role of CAO. The program runs to 2025.


My personal belief is that those launching municipal careers right now have perhaps the best opportunity in recent history, for quick career advancement, because so many municipal employees are eligible for retirement in 2021.

Many are staying on past their retirement dates, however, to help their communities through COVID, but I predict there will be a mass exodus of employees soon as the COVID crisis begins to ease. We’re already seeing an increase in municipal job postings.  

As for the trajectory of my career – well, I eventually became the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) and helped the municipality through restructuring, worked with the province in issues and project management, and eventually decided to set up a municipal consultancy and develop and

To me, a career in local government is still the most challenging and rewarding work you’ll ever do. 

Like I always say, You can take the girl out of the municipality, but you can never take the municipality out of the girl.”  


Susan Shannon, AMCT

Founder & Principal, & Shaping Organizational Solutions (SOS)

[email protected]  Phone: 855.477.5095


Podcast Interview with Ripple Analytics

Do you dread conducting annual employee reviews?

Ripple is a platform for providing quick, anonymous team member evaluations. By rating colleagues based on the Big 5 Personality Traits, Ripple turns objective feedback into actionable information.

CEO, Noah L. Pusey, brings a unique perspective to growing Ripple, drawn from nearly two decades of experience establishing and building law firms in New York City.  He has counseled and advised individual and corporate clients in various practice areas including business development, growth strategy and general transactional matters.

Noah has firsthand knowledge of the flawed employee review systems used by many companies – having participated in hundreds of annual evaluations over the years, so he has set out to change they way they’re done!

Listen to this podcast to learn more:


How To Find Executive Level Talent For Canada’s Municipalities And Broader Public Sector Organizations

How To Find Executive Level Talent For Canada’s Municipalities And Broader Public Sector Organizations

Some thoughts from a search expert in these fields.

In my last article, we discussed the leadership qualities and traits that will be required to transition Canada’s Municipalities and the general Public Sector into a post-pandemic reality. As the pandemic recovery slowly makes its way through the economy in Canada and abroad, industries will begin to bounce back, becoming more resilient, agile and innovative under new leadership. As a result, an increase in hiring has surged through the workforce and is transforming the talent landscape from a “War for Talent” to include a “Race For Talent”. So what is the best way that Councils’ and Boards’ in the Public Sector can reach, engage and attract the best talent to lead the recovery. 

More often than not Municipal Councils’, Boards’ and Senior Management Teams within the Public Sector will approach the recruitment of a Chief Administrative Officer, Chief Executive Officer, Director or other C-level senior executive similarly to that of a mid-level manager. When taking this effort on themselves, they will post the job description, gather resumes, interview candidates and make a final selection. This approach to running a senior level search internally is compromised for many reasons including:

  • There is limited access to qualified leaders beyond your team’s immediate networks.
  • A lot of potential candidates are not “actively looking,” are “selective” regarding their career moves and would not apply for the role concerned about a breach of confidentiality. Dealing with a search consultant, before they commit, makes it easier for these candidates to feel comfortable and seek more details about the opportunity.

Countless times I have seen Municipalities and other Public Sector organizations attempt to take on the hiring for a senior executive leader internally, and end up coming to us eventually for help in managing the search process.

In order to avoid this initial waste of resources, time, finances and frustration, I’ve created a guide for how Municipal Councils’, Board’s and Senior Management teams in Canada can partner and work with an external executive search firm for finding and appointing the best leaders for their organizations and communities.

Step 1: What Is Their Specialization? Success In Finding And Placing Right Fit Candidates Who Can Make A Difference

Firstly, you will need to identify the best search firm to partner with. This will include a close examination of several key areas including the types of executives they have placed, other clients they have worked with in the past (are these past clients similar to you and your needs) and a list of recent or past searches. For example, I specialize in placing Chief Administrative Officers’, Chief Executive Officers’, Commissioners’ and Directors’ for Municipalities, Public Sector organizations and Libraries across Canada. To quickly gather this information, review a search firm’s website. If you are still unclear of their specialization and methods you can dive deeper into their thought leadership that they have published. Look for regular postings of thought leadership articles and content about your industry and ask yourself if these articles provide deeper insights than others you have come across or reveal perspectives that you may not have considered. A truly experienced search consultant should be able to demonstrate and provide value to their wider networks in addition to their immediate clients.

Successful search consultants that exceed client expectations, will also see a high rate of repeat and referral business – it is important to understand what percentage of a search firm’s business is repeat or referral business versus new business. The higher the repeat / referral rate – the better the relationship a search consultant will have with their clients. I am grateful to have a very high rate of repeat / referral business. 

The final consideration for identifying specialization within a search firm when working in the Public Sector, is to confirm that a search firm or search consultant is a trusted partner and vetted provider with prior experience working with Municipalities and Public Sector organizations. A search firm that has been through this rigorous process of verification, certification, approval and documentation, will be accustomed to these requirements and this process. Having this awareness and experience will save you time and resources when looking for an external search firm to partner with.

Step 2: Why Partner with A Search Firm Instead Of Doing It Yourself?

Aside from the downsides to doing it yourself that I mentioned earlier, there are a number of additional reasons why allowing a well respected third party to manage and run your executive search process will yield better results. In addition to unrivaled candidate access and relationships, a search consultant or search firm you partner with can:

  • Collectively gather information from internal stakeholders to create a summary of ideal core competencies, gain trust and build consensus.
  • Remain unbiased during the research, interviewing and decision-making processes.
  • Conduct interviews to provide a fair and objective process for everyone involved.
  • Assure that candidates have fair representation in the interview process.
  • Garner buy-in across multiple internal stakeholders.
  • Decrease the time to placement / hire by circumventing internal obstacles and politics. 

A search consultant should serve as a trusted advisor to both a client and a candidate. Having an objective perspective as a search consultant, they can lead the charge and the process and instill confidence and trust within the candidate. When a search is conducted internally – candidates often will not trust the process for any number of reasons and therefore lose interest, shrinking the available talent pool. This distrust can manifest from any number of prior experiences including:

  • Mistreatment in a prior internal interview process
  • Losing the role to an internal hire / promotion (for cost hiring purposes)
  • Mishired and not a good fit culturally. 

The candidate experience is becoming more and more critical to finding and attracting senior leadership talent within the Public Sector. A third party search consultant represents both the client to the candidate and vice versa and will have everyone’s best interests top of mind throughout the entire cycle. When candidates are not selected to move forward for any number of reasons, an expert search consultant will assure that the candidate’s experience remains positive by offering additional coaching, feedback, etc. This in turn creates a favorable impression by the candidate and maintains a Municipality’s or Public Sector organization’s reputation. 

Another reason why senior executive candidates do not apply directly to positions is the risk of exposure to their current company which can damage their reputation and career aspirations. As a search consultant, I make sure that the entire search process remains confidential and candidates are informed of their status in a timely and discrete manner – regardless of the outcome. 

Once your Search / Recruitment Committee has selected a search firm to appoint your next senior executive, it is imperative to understand the process of how you will work together with a search consultant. 

Step 3: Understanding The Executive Search Process. 

To set expectations, an executive search process for selecting a new Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) or a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) will take roughly 6-8 weeks to complete. First, we interview Search / Recruitment Committees and the rest of Council / Board members to gain insight, get stakeholders actively involved and identify the core competencies (skills, traits, qualities) of the ideal candidate. When completed, this reveals the summary of the most important core competencies, which are then developed and approved by the Search / Recruitment committee and built into a position profile. 

Next, as a search consultant, we go to market to research, find, engage and source candidates that align with these competencies. Our team will often consult with my confidential advisory committee of current and past successful Municipal and Public Sector executives seeking potential referrals for candidates. Typically this initial research will yield approximately 80-100 candidates, who are then scored and ranked against the competency matrix through a round of initial interviews and either moved forward or withdrawn from the process. After this initial screening and research phase, I match the best candidates that align with both the required experience and core leadership skills, resulting in roughly 8-10 top candidates ready to be presented to the Search / Recruitment Committee. 

At this point, a truly experienced search consultant will continue to manage and facilitate the interview process between candidates and the search committee. By facilitating panel interviews as a moderator and coaching stakeholders on key questions to ask, a search consultant will make sure that the process remains fair and equitable. This also avoids any possibilities for potential conflict internally and eliminates favoritism and bias. 

We would then work with Search / Recruitment Committee stakeholders to build consensus of their top 3 candidate selections. Once further interviews are conducted and a finalist is chosen, we also recommend a unique psychometric assessment expert to conduct an independent assessment of the finalist candidate. I will conduct final reference, credential, criminal background and social media checks. An offer is then extended to the candidate who will then either negotiate or accept. 

The above process is an example of a typical search process that has been successful on many occasions in hiring senior executives, however each process is tailored to clients’ specific needs and agreed to in advance. We constantly strive to improve our processes and do so based on feedback from clients. 

It is our understanding that the average tenure for a Chief Administrative Officer / Chief Executive Officer in the Public Sector is roughly 3-5 years. If you have any questions regarding the Canadian marketplace or are considering a new executive hire to your leadership team, I am happy to answer any questions you may have. Below are a list of our current searches that we are working on:

Some of Our Past Successful Searches Include:

  • Chief Administrative Officer – City of Pickering
  • Chief Administrative Officer – City of St. Catharines
  • Chief Administrative Officer – Township of Uxbridge
  • Chief Administrative Officer – Town of Niagara – On – the Lake
  • Chief Administrative Officer – Region of Waterloo
  • Chief Executive Officer – Burlington Public Library
  • Chief Executive Officer – St. Catharines Public Library
  • Director, Economic Development Services – City of Oshawa
  • Director, Planning Services – City of Oshawa
  • Director, Transit Services – Region of Waterloo
  • Director of Municipal Works – City of Niagara Falls
  • Director of Operations and Environmental Services – Town of Ajax
  • Director of Communications – City of Cambridge
  • Director of Information Technology – Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council (OMVIC)
  • Director of Finance – Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council (OMVIC)
  • City Manager – City of Cambridge
  • Senior Manager, Economic Development – Town of Whitby

About The Author

Kartik Kumar is a Partner at Legacy Executive Search Partners and has over 15 years experience in successfully executing 250 projects within the Public and Private Sector industry segments, including Municipalities and other Broader Public Sector organizations. Kartik has a Bachelor’s in Business Management from Ryerson University and an accredited certification in Diversity and Inclusion from Cornell University.

Prior to joining Legacy Executive Search Partners, Kartik has held several Managing Director and Partner roles within large national and international executive search firms. He has successfully developed an executive search practice across Ontario and Canada within Municipal Government and the broader Public Sector.

Contact Kartik Kumar at [email protected] for Senior Leadership Recruitment within the Public Sector across Canada. 


Being aware – situationally aware

Our world has always been in a state of perpetual change. Now more than ever, it is perceived to be doing that at an ever-rapid pace.

Positive changes such as economic growth, and technology advancements to note a couple. Unfortunately, with the positive, comes the negative. A continuous cycle of persons who wish to do harm.

Safety and Security experts inform us that violent events will continue to happen. The violent extremist motivated and driven by an ideology, to the targeting of individuals, place of business, worship, acts of violence that permeate into every vertical, sector of business and government.

Active safety and security programs are continuous reviewed, modified to face existing and the new challenges of tomorrow.

To make your safety and security programs more effective, the program needs ambassadors, staff.

Ambassadors need to be aware. Situationally aware.

Situational awareness training provides your staff with valuable intelligence & time when facing safety and security situations of potential harm or danger.

Being situation aware is truly a change in mindset.

It is a way of thinking that will focus a person’s behaviour, their outlook, and their mental attitude. People that are aware are no longer vulnerable but capable.

Capable individuals are always prepared. Capable individuals are not complacent, they use technology to enhance their preparedness and response and their planning always includes a contingency plan.

Situationally aware staff improve the effectiveness of your safety and security program.

Situationally aware individuals enhance the workplace and enhance their personal safety and security.

We can Help.

Plan the Work. Work the Plan.

Should your Municipality need assistance in Situation Awareness training, contact Michael White Group International today, and we will be happy to answer your questions.

Michael White Group International is Arcuri Group LLC approved Situation Awareness Specialist Certification Training provider.



Turn Stress into Good Stress by Choosing Your Response

Life is a parade of stress-inducing situations ever looming on the horizon. Which helps explain why, the more you resist stress, resist the inevitable, the more painful it becomes. For instance, say that your stress was an egg. And imagine squeezing and squeezing that egg. It’d finally crack under the pressure, right? What a mess! But if you gently hold the egg, you can easily handle it.

Stress can make us stronger, smarter and happier

In a Stanford News article by Clifton B. Parker, the author interviewed Stanford psychologist Kelly McGonigal who talked about her research indicating that “stress can make us stronger, smarter and happier – if we learn how to open our minds to it.”


McGonigal states that “The three most protective beliefs about stress are: 

1) to view your body’s stress response as helpful, not debilitating – for example, to view stress as energy you can use; 

2) to view yourself as able to handle, and even learn and grow from, the stress in your life; and 

3) to view stress as something that everyone deals with, and not something that proves how uniquely screwed up you or your life is.”

a cascade of health-promoting physical responses.

Studies have shown that when we embrace stress, our bodies release a cascade of health-promoting physical responses. A life-saving “biology of courage” that helps you endure and thrive even under the most daunting, stressful conditions.

In a Q&A with the Rotman School of Business, McGonigal responded to one of the questions with the following: “The profound ‘mindset reset’ that I’m encouraging involves embracing stress because you understand that there is no way to live a stress-free life, and that the presence of stress in our lives is important to being human. We need stress in order to experience the things we want most in life — whether it’s health, happiness, love or growth. I am convinced that when you choose to see the upside of stress, you increase your resilience, add meaning to your life and make more personal connections.”

A Story from Real Life…the horse is out of the barn!

In 2008, my husband, Stan, of 8 years was diagnosed with Stage IV gastric cancer. “Sorry, the horse is out of the barn” is what we were told over and over. Sorry, too late for surgery, the horse is out of the barn. Sorry, too late for radiation, the horse is out of the barn. “Maybe oncology can help.”  


In no time at all, here we were, our world suddenly turned absolutely upside down. It felt surreal and almost like we were watching ourselves in a movie. Alas, an oncologist who embraced Stan’s situation and wasn’t about to allow the horse to keep running until Stan ran out of breath. Instead, he told us that “Sometimes aggressive cancers respond to aggressive treatment.” Okay then – let’s get started, we responded. Keep in  mind, he continued “you have less than a 5% chance of living 5 years.”


That was a defining moment and one filled with immense stress – the life or death kind…literally. At that moment, we had a choice, we could feel defeated,  go the chemo course and hope for the best.


Instead, we chose our stress response. For Stan, it was an attitude of I’m not ready to leave my wife and my family – I still have so much to live for. Stan also looked at the odds and chose to respond by taking on the perspective that somebody is in that 5% that makes it so it’s going to be him.


The stress response I chose was one of combating this evil force. I could see it, it had a shape, it had a colour and it was voracious. Well guess what, I could be voracious back – “no I’m not going to let you win” I thought. 

Choice gives us power

This stress response was a choice and with choice comes power. There is so much more about this journey but today I just want to focus on just one of the techniques for mastering stress – choosing your stress response.


That choice is what kept me going as the caregiver, researcher, on-demand cook, chauffeur, part-time coach, communications head and wife. My choice gave me the courage that I needed to continue although inside I was filled with fear, particularly in the early days.


Months later, as my husband continued to make phenomenal progress and defy the odds, the oncologist shared that when he first saw Stan, he didn’t expect him to live 6  weeks! In fact, he said that the majority of people that don’t choose a positive stress response don’t make it.


There were so many life lessons learned in that time and yes, Stan continues to be super healthy and almost impossible to keep up with as we approach the 12.5 year mark as I write.


How can you shift your perspective to choose new ways of responding to stress so that you turn stress into good stress?

Submitted by:

Sophie Mathewson, PCC

Strategic Advisor & Coach

Prism Group

[email protected]



What Post Pandemic Leadership Will Look Like For Canada

By: Kartik Kumar

National Practice Leader, Municipal Government and Broader Public Sectors.

The past year has been incredibly volatile across all industries. While some industries remained steady and stable, others suffered significantly. As we begin to emerge into a post-pandemic way of life, new beginnings will always call for new leadership and new perspectives. 2020 has required an incredibly unique set of leadership skills that were constantly challenged month after month with scandals, social justice issues, quarantine and climate change to name a few.

As restrictions begin to loosen with more and more Canadians being vaccinated, there are several critical leadership qualities and competencies that will serve leaders well in the public sector for a steady, safe and final reopening across Canada. Below are some of the leadership qualities I foresee as essential for leaders to transition public sector services and organizations into a post-pandemic life. 

9 Critical Skills Leaders Will Need Post-Pandemic.

Strong Digital Communicators. As we saw throughout the pandemic, timely and factual information must be distributed to reach large audiences very quickly. Future leaders will need a balance of skills to understand how to best leverage communication platforms and tools such as tweeting and texting for urgent public alerts.

Adaptability. As workforces begin to return to the office, new leaders will need to be adaptable and encourage a hybrid model of remote and in-person work. Future leaders will need to embrace this and shift the cultural perspective to value productivity over physical presence in an office. Most employees and teams understand the best ways they work and future leaders will have to flex and accommodate accordingly while keeping an eye on productivity. 

Digital Transformation Champions. As workforces went fully remote for over a year, many organizations were blind-sided by this drastic shift putting an immense strain on technology and resources. This unexpected transition to entirely digital delivery for services, meetings, events and more will remain with us even after the pandemic subsides. Future leaders will need to champion and continue to support a hybrid model for digital and in-person services to their communities and citizens even post-pandemic.

Transparency and Trust. As we saw with scandals, social justice issues and even vaccination delays creeping into 2021, trust was fractured across the economy and Canada. Effective post-pandemic leaders will need to be transparent in order to build confidence and trust back up within governments, municipalities, public services and more in order to move past the severe impacts of COVID-19. 

Tenacity, Courage And Resilience. Many difficult decisions were made in 2020 that riddled industries including the public and private sector. In order for municipalities to recover from these hardships in the long-term, leaders will need to be bold, tenacious and resilient. Future leaders will need to redefine their strategic direction and vision after a year of diversion, delays and disruption, and take these skill sets with them into post-pandemic planning. 

Motivation And Influence. As we discussed earlier, trust and transparency will be critical to instill a renewed faith in governments and Canada’s economy. As we emerge into a more familiar way of life, strong leaders will need to motivate and influence communities to impart a feeling of safety for restarting the economy again. By providing an initial assurance of comfort and trust through transparency, strong leaders will then be tasked with pursuing this momentum and convincing communities that the end of the pandemic has arrived through influence. 

Empathy. Even beyond catastrophic pandemic times, strong leaders must always remain empathetic for their teams and communities. In order to be successful, strong post-pandemic leaders must remain steadfastly empathetic and recognize the individuals and stakeholders that were essential to survival over the past 14 months. In addition, effective future leaders must be mindful and recognize the impact COVID-19 has and will continue to have on society’s mental health. By remaining vigilant to these risks and possible side effects, leaders will be able to better support the well-being of their teams and their communities across Canada.

Collaboration And Partnership. The pandemic has shown us the true benefits of collaboration and information sharing. Future leaders will need to heavily rely on partnership for building a new future together. Within the last year, there were key strategies and projects that worked well and others that were less successful. More often than not, collaboration and partnership attributed to Canada’s success during a time of volatility and future leaders will need to continue building upon these relationships through collaboration. 

Innovation And Flexibility. Many municipalities, local governments and even libraries depended upon innovation to help them adapt to chaotic and unprecedented times. Post-pandemic leaders will need to lean heavily into innovation which will in turn demand flexibility. Whether leaders are tasked with finding alternative revenue streams, incentivizing workforces to return to the office or even accelerating new businesses to open and return to urban areas, creative thinking and flexibility will be a critical skill to set these initiatives in motion and course correct the future for Canada’s economy.

During the pandemic many people and communities fled cities to suburban areas for more space and a better work life balance offered by remote working. As a result, these smaller non-urban satellite “Zoom Towns” needed to adapt quickly as residency increased and their micro economies grew. Below is one such example of a small municipality that met this challenge head on, and relied heavily on their innovative leaders and agile teams to plan and prepare for this.

Modernizing For Urban Lifestyle Through Innovative Leadership

As the pandemic subsides, the question arises for those that fled urban centers in search of more space and whether or not they will remain or return to the larger cities? Some will undoubtedly return to urban life, however, others have found a renewed appreciation for life outside of the city, such as the Town of Innisfil. A recent article discussed the innovative ways that the small urban satellite Town of Innisfil, located 45 minutes outside of Toronto with a population of ~37,000, is reinventing itself through a highly nimble and flexible approach to economic development. 

Today, the Town of Innisfill is challenging the status quo and applying learnings from their larger, more urban counterparts, allowing the Town to scale quickly and innovate quite literally from the ground up. The Town of Innisfil is taking new measures for transformative city planning, public transit and more with its sights set on becoming a central GovTech hub for Canada. 

Within the article, Dan Taylor, Economic Development Catalyst for the Town of Innisfil said, “The reason we’re able to be quite innovative is we’re small and nimble. Our senior administration and council are fairly closely aligned. So we have great thinking in our leadership — both politically and administratively”. Taylor continued to add, “…Our Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) said, when we do economic development, we want to be an accelerator. We don’t want to just be a facilitator. We want to put our foot on the gas and really play a different role”.

In order to keep their small community thriving post-pandemic they’ve decided to innovate in a few different ways including:

  • Offering economic incentives for GovTech start-ups to relocate offices and establish headquarters in the Town of Innisfil away from the larger city centers, allowing talent to remain local and drive innovation centrally. 
  • Planning and building an urban environment zoned using concentric circles for streets and avenues. By building the infrastructure of a modern city-within-a-town, referred to as “The Orbit”, the Town of Innisfil will offer residents the benefits of city dwelling without overdevelopment and losing the intimate feeling of the Town.
  • Piloting Uber as the Town’s main official form of public transit. This on-demand format of public transit reduces costs and increases efficiency as demand increases or subsides. By leveraging an existing platform through partnership and collaboration, the Town of Innisfil was able to plan and create a new mass transit system with little infrastructure investment.
  • Accepting cryptocurrencies for residents to pay taxes. The Town of Innisfil has begun accepting digital cryptocurrencies from residents to pay for taxes. 
  • Planning a new rail transit to connect the Town of Innisfil directly with the neighboring city of Toronto to offer streamlined commuter options and increase connectivity to the larger central Canadian hub. 

The Town of Innisfil was able to innovate and set these strategic plans in place as a result of their leadership. Instead of taking the traditional approaches to economic expansion and development, senior leadership within the public sector saw an incredible opportunity for true innovation and sought out creative solutions. As an entire collective municipality, the Town of Innisfil has resources readily available to drive these fresh, new and innovative programs. However, even on a much smaller scale, innovation knows no boundaries.

Innovation Within Canada’s Public Libraries For Today And Tomorrow

Another example of innovation on a much smaller scale, are the many ways in which leaders across Canada’s public libraries transformed, adapted and innovated as they were forced from a primarily in-person model to an entirely digital resource and online service. 

In a recent interview, Vickery Bowles of the Toronto Public Library system, mentioned the ways in which the Toronto Public Library had to innovate and adjust as the pandemic thrust both the private and public sector into a digital transformation spiral. 

Within the interview, Bowles commented on how the library was able to adapt. “The transition to the online environment was critical for people to give them the opportunity and to make these connections”. Bowles added, “Through a lot of innovative thinking, hard work and dedication on behalf of our staff, we dropped everything and we just focused on what we needed to do as a result of being closed and rethink how we deliver our services”.

Some of the small yet innovative ways that leadership within the Toronto Public library system met these challenges included:

Developing and Delivering Programs Virtually. Through webinar and video platform technology adoption, the Toronto Public Library was able to work with their team members to innovate, launch and deliver over 550 programs to over 40,000 attendees in under 6 months. These programs ranged from children’s story hours to yoga for young adults. 

Curbside Pick Up And Drop Off. To keep book services available to communities while reducing the risk and spread of COVID-19, Toronto Public Libraries allowed for members to reserve items virtually and collect items in-person from a safe distance.

Waiving Late Fees. Libraries began waiving late fees due to quarantine guidelines and restrictions set in place at the beginning of the pandemic. Interestingly enough, the Library discovered that late fees were acting as a barrier to access for lower income families and members. By eliminating late fees, Toronto Public Library usage has increased across these communities – a core mission of the Public Library.

Strengthened Digital and Municipal Partnerships. By partnering with eBook platforms and offering a digital reader option to members, library membership increased during COVID-19 as individuals sought out alternative ways to engage their minds at home. Additionally, Toronto Public Library later partnered with food banks to offer their physical library branch spaces to them for delivering food services to the shared communities that both the Library and food banks serve.

Providing Equitable Internet Access For All. Some Toronto Public Library members depend heavily upon the availability of technology and internet access to participate in government programs, online education, etc. To continue providing these members equitable access and remain connected, Toronto Public Libraries innovatively developed internet connectivity kits that include a laptop, WiFi hotspot and laptop bag. These kits were designed to deliver these resource rich services all from the safety of a member’s own home. 

Many of these new digital services and methods for the Toronto Public Library will remain ongoing post-pandemic due to their success. As a result of these innovative and flexible approaches, library membership has increased during the pandemic. 

As we have seen, innovation and flexibility will remain top of mind as a core leadership skill set in our post-pandemic society. However, municipalities and public sector organizations will be challenged with identifying the best leaders and candidates that have cultivated and align with these leadership attributes.

Innovation, Diversity And Inclusion. 

Diversity and Inclusion has been a common thread and discussion point for many leadership teams across the public sector for over a decade at this point. New ways of adapting and growing will require fresh and new perspectives at the leadership level. 

Oftentimes innovative leadership qualities are found within diversity candidates that can challenge the status quo to effectively impact change across the organization and community. Typically, diversity candidates have experienced and mitigated a lifetime of adversity and obstacles. These experiences, both professionally and personally, foster new ideas, creative thinking, innovation, agility and influence. However, the biggest challenge that the public sector faces when it comes to finding and appointing diversity talent at the leadership level includes:

  • Access To Diversity Candidates
  • Diversity Mandates Representation
  • Elevating Inclusion To Allow Diversity To Flourish

Access To Diversity Candidates

Many municipalities see the value that diversity can bring to their leadership teams but don’t know where to start their search for this elusive talent. For many years, organizations and municipalities unknowingly created a culture of homogeneity thus shrinking their own internal talent pipelines as a source for diversity talent. Instead, public and private sector organizations must partner with external experts to help identify, appoint and present the most qualified and capable diversity candidates for leadership roles. For example, in the past year, I’ve worked with several public sector organizations and municipalities to identify, hire and onboard several strong female leaders across Canada.

Diversity Mandates Representation

One element of diversity that some organizations fall victim to is the pressure to hire a diversity candidate as a check list item to appease public demand and stakeholders for visibility reasons. I’ve worked with many clients in my career as an executive search consultant, and the key to hiring a diversity candidate that can provide the best value to the community is the simple concept of representation. 

I often challenge clients, counselors and hiring committees that request a diverse slate of candidates to examine what diversity looks like within their community internally and demographically. Sometimes the personification and perception of diversity by selection committees may not always align with the true values and representation of the communities they will be serving – this is critical when considering a diversity hire at the leadership level. As a best practice, a diversity candidate should be representative of the larger community in which they will serve, while also maintaining the leadership attributes required by the role. 

Elevating Inclusion To Allow Diversity To Flourish

The other caveat that municipalities and public sector organizations overlook when hiring a diversity candidate is the necessary inclusivity training and acceptance of new and different perspectives by other senior leaders. Inclusivity programs allow for the broader leadership team to adopt and best leverage new perspectives offered by diversity candidates in powerful ways. By elevating cultural sensitivities and awareness to the existing senior leadership team and creating a more inclusive culture, senior leaders can learn how to better work together and support one another. As a result, this awareness and inclusivity will increase collaboration and knowledge sharing and trickle down through the organization to more junior teams. As this cultural shift slowly takes place, success can be measured by the amount of diversity talent attracted to the organization, thus building an internal diversity talent pipeline for the future.

About The Author.

Kartik Kumar is a Partner at Legacy Executive Search Partners and has over 15 years experience in successfully executing 250 projects within the Public and Private sector, including municipal government and public libraries. Kartik has a Bachelor’s in Business Management from Ryerson University and an accredited certification in Diversity and Inclusion from Cornell University.

Prior to joining Legacy Executive Search Partners, Kartik has held several Managing Director roles within large national and international executive search firms. He has successfully developed an executive search practice across Ontario and Canada within Municipal Government and the Broader Public sector.

Contact Kartik Kumar at [email protected] for Senior Leadership Recruitment within the Public Sector across Canada. 


What type of testing is right for your website – Understanding the difference in website testing

In the last few weeks there has been a rise in reported malware and malicious attacks on small municipalities. Testing of three small municipality websites in recent weeks by our team has resulted in failures on all sites basic security parameters. We often hear small organizations saying they don’t need to worry about attacks, they aren’t “big enough” but anyone can be a target.

Regular testing your website for known vulnerabilities and emerging threats should become a part of your Cyber Security Road Map. The first step is identifying the type of web testing that is right for your infrastructure. Here are a few key questions to consider;

1) Where is your website hosted – do you host it yourself? Is it hosted by a third-party?
2) Who is responsible for the security of the host system, the operating system?
3) Do you have a web application firewall such as CloudFlare in front of your website?
4) Is your website a static page with content?
5) Do you have a login and if so what type of data is behind the login? Customer, pricing, private personal?
6) Do you have any API interactions with other applications?

When you start down the road of testing your website you want to consider the host operating system and the application. There are two key types of testing available, fully automated scanning and manual testing. Fully automated scanning is used for both host operating systems and web applications. The host operating system scan will scan for all currently known vulnerabilities affecting that operation system. It will report back on the CVE, the risk and usually suggested remediation tips. The same is true for the web application scanning. The fully automated web application scanner will scan your website at a minimum for the OWASP top 10 vulnerabilities and report back on risks and remediation.

Manual testing means that you have an actual person who is using various methods to determine the security of a host or the application and If the rules of the engagement permit, they will attempt to exploit a vulnerability and gain access, modify content or download information. There are varying degrees of manual testing, the simplest is one tester and one day and the more extensive 2 testers and 5 days of testing.

The type of test that is required for your website really depends on two main factors –


1. Have the host and application ever been tested before?

2. What is the criticality of the data being processed or stored on this site?


For example, if you have a very static page of content that is hosted by a third party, chances are a good OWASP 10 scan of you site will be sufficient to let you know if you have any glaring misconfigurations that could lead to a website defacement or potential attack on your site. If your website has a login and you allow users to sign up for accounts and host dynamic content, you would want to make sure you consider a manual test at least for the first test. Once a thorough baseline has been established for the site, testing can become more routine and automated.

We recommend you develop a plan for testing and make sure to include the above considerations. There might be special notifications you have to give in writing to a third party before you test an application, you might have to have a testing IP whitelisted in a web application firewall, you may need special accounts set up in the application for testing.

If you are unsure what type of test is right for your website, reach out to us and we will be glad to discuss options with you.


The Importance of Third Party Vendor Assessments

Lessons learned from Cyber Incident Response

We are finding many companies that have experienced a Cyber Incident are not performing even the most basic Third Party Vendor Risk Assessment.

It is absolutely imperative that if you engage with a vendor you understand the associated risks.

5 simple questions can lead you to be a better understanding of your Vendor risks and a quicker recovery from an Incident:


  1. Is there an identifiable Leadership team?
    • Who is accountable?
    • Would you be able to escalate or contact them?
    • Where are they located?
  2. Do they have an Incident Response plan and Reporting Structure?
    • Do they have a response plan?
    • Are there dedicated phone numbers or emails for reporting incidents?
    • Are ticket numbers assigned and tracked?
  3. Who is responsible for security within their Organization?
    • Is there someone who is responsible for security?
    • Is there a defined role or is it an off the side of the desk of another role?
    • Does the company reside in a country that has Breach Reporting responsibilities?
  4. Do you have a Service Level Agreement for responding to incidents?
    • Do you have a defined Incident/Severity matrix with set response times?
    • How do you escalate an Incident?
    • What is your communication cadence?
  5. Can they demonstrate their current level of Cyber Security Compliance?
    • Can they demonstrate the framework they adhere to? (NIST/CIS)
    • Do they disclose if and when they do vulnerability/penetration testing?
    • Do they have any risk reports (SOC 1, SOC 2, PCI or DSS) they can share?
    • Do they have patch management?

It is important to develop a Third Party Cyber Security Screening Assessment before engaging in a new contract. We can walk you through the process and helping you to understand your Cyber Risks.


Let’s talk Cyber!


Are you a Winner or a Learner?

It seems to me that most of us are happy to just be agreeable when it comes to our perspective about how the world works. As individuals we find some sense of mental peace knowing that we think like the rest of a group.  

But I’ve always looked at things differently.  Sometimes I’m right and sometimes I’m wrong.  And when I am wrong, I’m never afraid to admit it.  I forgive myself and accept it as a learning experience.

As Lionel Ritchie recently told a contestant on American Idol, “When you win, you win.  When you lose, you learn.” 

It’s one thing to allow yourself this flexibility, but as a Manager or Leader do you extend this same flexibility to your team’s innovative ideas?   And, perhaps more importantly, if an idea fails, do you offer the same “forgiveness” for your team as you would for yourself?

Continue reading


How have the pandemic adaptations affected your Physical Security?

Well into the COVID19 pandemic, organizations, governments big and small have had to take measures and make changes to their environments to adapt to the needs of their staff, customers, their service delivery model, requirements of health science, government agency regulations and perhaps “new” industry best practices and of course the ever-changing virus.

These measures have evolved into many different things. We’re going to specifically focus on physical security devices.

Two of the pervasive items that have been introduced in many environments are plexiglass and signage.

Organizations have installed plexiglass barriers at intersection points of personnel as they have the potential to interact with other personnel, customers, vendors, etc.

Informative signage itemizing physical distancing rules, self assessment health protocols have been placed all around in both strategic and random locations within the environment to ensure every opportunity for personnel and visitors to be informed.

Funny thing about all of this plexiglass barriers and signage.

In some cases, not all, we have inadvertently defeated some or many of the installed security devices functionality and purpose. That is, their ability to monitor, detect and alert (alarm).

  • Motion detectors blocked, unable to provide proper coverage
  • Cameras experiencing sun flare reflection off plexiglass
  • Nuisance alarms due to swinging signage on the increase
  • And other unforeseen affects

There are incidents where this is enough of this added material, that areas, although devices are active and functioning as per specifications, are unable to detect properly – leaving areas with no security detection or proper monitoring.

We have the answers.

Let’s go for a (physically distanced) walk and have a conversation.

Your security risk plans are more than just a motion detector or even a strategic camera placement.

We can Help.

Plan the Work. Work the Plan.

Should your Municipality need assistance, contact Michael White Group today, and we will be happy to answer your questions or provide quotations.