The town of Sackville will soon be on the lookout for a CAO once again.
Sackville’s chief administrative officer Phil Handrahan has announced he will be retiring in the next six months, leaving the post he has filled since the spring of 2013.
Handrahan said after a nearly 40-year career in municipal governance, he is at the stage in his life where he felt it was time to take a new direction in his life.
“I’ve been at it a long time,” he said. “So it’s been in the back of my mind for a while now, thinking about when that day would come and when the best time in my life is to do this.”
Handrahan said with a municipal election coming next spring, he thought stepping down in February would be an opportune time to retire – giving a new CAO time to acclimate to the position before a new council comes in.
Handrahan came to Sackville from the city of Charlottetown, where he had been working as director of fiscal and development services, having worked his way up a variety of management roles with the municipality.
Arriving here in May 2013, after having been selected from among several dozen applicants, Handrahan took over the top management job at town hall from Michael Beal, who had been serving as CAO in an acting role (along with his treasurer duties) for more than a year and a half. Beal had been filling a vacancy left by Eric Mourant, who was dismissed from the job in Sept. 2011. Mourant came on as CAO in Feb. 2010, replacing Barry Carroll, who had resigned from the post the previous August after a three-year stint.
Handrahan said his goal as CAO has always been to ensure the town is well managed, that a positive work environment has been maintained and that the municipality’s goals have been in line with today’s fiscal reality.
He is also proud that he has brought together a professional and experienced management team over the past few years that works well with council and the community.
And he believes there have been greater steps taken towards more accountability and openness between town staff, council and the public.
“We’ve come a long way from when I attended my first council meeting to where we are today,” said Handrahan, noting that many processes have been improved, such as adding council meeting agendas and recordings to the website and regularly reviewing council’s procedural bylaw.
He said while there have been some challenges, he has enjoyed his experience as Sackville’s CAO and is pleased to have been part of a number of important projects that have improved Sackville’s quality of life – from the reconstruction of downtown Bridge Street to the new Bill Johnstone Memorial Park to the major upgrades on Lorne Street.
“We’ve had some great successes along the way.”
Handrahan said he sees this next stage of his life as his newest challenge – and while he hasn’t yet made any firm plans as to what exactly he will be doing in his retirement, he won’t be sitting idle. He said he has already been approached about a number of opportunities and he looks forward to being able to take those on in the future.
For now, however, he still has six months’ work ahead of him and he hopes to make the most out of them.
Mayor John Higham praised Handrahan for the professionalism he has brought to town hall as well as a “wonderful term of stability” following a lengthy flux in management roles. He said Handrahan has also been able to increase the town’s assets while helping to lower its debt, even despite difficult financial situations.
“It was remarkable what he was able to achieve,” said Higham.
Higham said council will now have to consider their next step and the approach they will take in their search for a new CAO. This process will get under way as soon as possible, he said, so the town can fill the role prior to Handrahan’s resignation in February.