Bruce Zvaniga is temporarily taking the helm as Niagara-on-the-Lake’s chief administrative officer as the town begins its search for its official replacement for departed CAO Marnie Cluckie.
“It might be a small town, but it’s certainly a town with lots on the go,” he said.
As the acting chief administrator, Zvaniga says his job is to keep the train on the tracks and help the town find a permanent staffer to assume the position.
Cluckie left the town for the senior-most position in Hamilton before Christmas.
“Part of my job is to put myself out of work,” Zvaniga said.
He estimated it would take between six and 12 months to find a new, permanent CAO.
Zvaniga has worked for the last 40-plus years in administration and is a veteran of municipal affairs who is looking to wind down his career. He has spent 30 years with the city of Toronto and, more recently, three years as commissioner of public works for Niagara Region.
“I don’t see myself as … taking on the permanent role,” he said, adding he was not planning to work full time for many years.
“I think I still have lots to contribute, and lots of energy over shorter bursts.”
But part of the reason he was drawn to the job in NOTL was because it was a temporary position.
Since leaving the region last May, Zvaniga said he’s focused mostly on taking care of his health and family while doing some professional consulting for a friend in Atlantic Canada on the side.
When the opportunity came up in NOTL, he said it was “ just too good to say no to.”
Rather than just being around to “keep the lights on,” Zvaniga said he was “anxious to keep the momentum going.”
Though he acknowledged the change in leadership represented, in his own words, “a disruption” for the town, he said he wanted to make it a minimal one.
“I don’t want to create any unnecessary disruption,” he said. “Because to me, disruption is something that just reduces our capacity to get the important things done.”
The key to success, he added, was not going to be in importing practices from other municipalities but in “taking the time to listen, to understand why things are the way they are” in NOTL.
“It’s not about no change.”
Change is inevitable in government but he said he wanted to focus on change that was in “the best interest of the organization.”
The challenge to running NOTL, he said, would be in “finding the sweet spot” between town growth and protecting its natural and historical heritage.
This, he added, would affect the next chief administrator as well.
Zvaniga takes the helm just as a couple of other senior staffers are leaving.
Senior heritage planner Denise Horne left the town in November after eight years, and director of operations Rome D’Angelo is leaving his position on Friday.
The acting chief administrator said he was unaware of D’Angelo’s intentions prior to taking the job and didn’t consider staff turnover as a potential factor in the town when he took the position.
“It happens all the time,” he said.
“You never want to lose somebody good,” he added, but stated that it’s “part of the natural ebb and flow” of running a town.
Though Zvaniga is a licensed engineer, he said he’d probably be too busy to do anything more than guide D’Angelo’s replacement.
He has been a resident of NOTL for the last four years, having been drawn to it by its “historical connections” and “natural beauty.”