Less than a week after being passed over for Hamilton's top job, Scott Stewart just announced that he has accepted a job as Burlington's general manager of Community Services. Hamilton's loss is definitely Burlington's gain.
As general manager for Public Works, Stewart has done an excellent job of bringing clarity and coherence to that sprawling department. He understands the need to change the internal organization of city staff, having led Public Works toward a more holistic approach to infrastructure development and maintenance.
In the old days, one section of Public Works would resurface a street, and six months later another section would rip it up to replace the water mains. They're now a lot better at coordinating activities to save money and get a better bang out of any single scheduled disruption.
Public Works has also followed a slow but steady trajectory away from an utterly car-centric bias to a multi-modal approach that recognizes the many uses of a city street, including as a place of living and interacting for its own residents. Public Works is starting to understand that their goal should be effectiveness for everyone, not just the efficiency of maximized vehicle flow-through.
Under Stewart, Public Works has also undertaken a very high level of engagement with the public and with advocacy organizations in how they establish priorities and conducts their business.
The PW staff who orchestrated the public outreach over the summer regarding the city's rapid transit feasibility study were remarkably successful at reaching citizens and soliciting useful feedback. Over 1,700 citizens replied to various staff requests for input, an unheard-of response, and staff deserve a lot of credit for their creativity and open-mindedness.
Finally, Stewart is a straight shooter. I've attended private meetings with him, as well as observing him talking to Councillors at committee or Council meetings, and to citizens at public lectures and panel discussions. I'm always impressed at the fact that he says the same things to everyone, rather than telling each group what it wants to hear.
Stewart has been a tremendous asset in an unweildy, amalgamated city at managing and coordinating large, pluralistic organizations; changing the internal culture of government bureaucracies; engaging openly with the public; and maintaining honesty and integrity in the face of political pressure.
That, of course, is exactly what Hamilton needs, and the city will be poorer for his departure to greener pastures.
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