Amherstburg’s new senior manager said he’s looking forward to helping the town build towards the future, coming from a career in public service and a period working for the City of Brampton.
“Amherstburg is one of those unique communities in Ontario that has an extraordinary mix of agriculture, small urban,” Peter Simmons, Amherstburg’s new chief administrative officer said. “It makes it the envy of other communities in Ontario.”
Prior to coming to Amherstburg, Simmons said he ran a small business consultancy focused on organizational review and business process reviews for municipalities and non-profits, and has also worked for Crown corporations and municipalities of varying sizes.
After his first two weeks, Simmons said he’s found Amherstburg welcoming.
“It was so gratifying to join a community where community members are very warm and welcoming,” he said.
“It’s not the first organization I’ve been part of, and I can tell you that the first few weeks have been absolutely wonderful. They’re a great group to be working with, and a community to be part of.”
Simmons previously worked as the chief of corporate services for the City of Brampton over a period when the town’s administration made headlines – first for a purported $1.25 million “slush fund” used to for raises to city staff that prompted a police investigation, and then for a dramatic reorganization that saw 25 managers, including Simmons, let go in 2016.
Police cleared Brampton city staff of any wrongdoing, noting in a report there was no slush fund – just a policy for discretionary raises to staff in council-approved budgets, from which senior management did not benefit.
Brampton’s then-new CAO said at the time the wave of firings was a restructuring after an external audit revealed high labor costs.
Of his time in Brampton, Simmons said each person brings experience to a role.
“When you join an organization like Amherstburg, you bring with you a cache of experience and skills and education and qualities and all of that is vetted by the search committee, as it was done here,” Simmons said.
“I think the fact that council endorsed that search committee’s recommendation and there was an appointing bylaw of me is a testament to their confidence, not only in their search committee’s work, but also in me.”
Brampton has continued to have a number of high-profile political and management disputes between staff and politicians to the current day.
Amherstburg Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said the town is happy to welcome Simmons.
“I think he’s done a great job of getting up to speed on items of interest… and is gearing up to tackle our challenges.”
And as for Simmons’ tenure in Brampton, DiCarlo said it’s something the town was aware of during the recruitment process and doesn’t consider an issue.
“That is absolutely something that is looked into… Anyone who is using a consulting group like we did expects that kind of due diligence from them.
“It’s been made clear and publicized on a number of occasions that any initial accusations were found to be false. Those are the kinds of things that you consider, but then move on because you can’t control the past and we look on to the future with what we know to be factual.”
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As for his tenure in Amherstburg, Simmons said that while people often expect new administrators to come in with big ideas, he hopes to help council and the public develop their vision for Amherstburg.
“As you move from one organization to the next you take your experience and your lessons and work it into that new culture that you’ve joined,” he said.
“My approach has always been that my vision is part of a larger vision made up of the council, businesses, stakeholders, and my colleagues. I’m really quite looking forward to that process. It’s energizing, it’s exciting.”