Edmonton has eliminated several high-profile leadership positions in an organizational shakeup at city hall that cuts two departments while adding new management jobs.
The city manager’s office announced a suite of changes Wednesday as part of restructuring efforts to find $60 million in savings and reallocate $240 million over four years to areas that are a priority for city council. How much money the city expects to save has not been disclosed.
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Edmonton Fire Rescue Service is cutting two vacant deputy chief positions. However, a slide deck obtained by Postmedia shows positions are also being created with six new assistant deputy chiefs.
Deputy city manager positions for the Employee Services and Communications and Engagement departments have been eliminated. Both departments will be disbanded and absorbed into the Office of the City Manager. Three branch manager positions have been cut — two people were let go and one person quit — the city confirmed with Postmedia.
New management positions are also being created.
The city will hire a new chief climate officer and chief communications officer. Michelle Plouff, the city solicitor, will also take on the title of chief people officer, and the chief of staff will be responsible for anti-racism and reconciliation efforts.
“This team of leaders will ensure that beyond policy and financial matters, we are also actively considering environment and inclusion when we are making decisions about building our city,” city manager Andre Corbould said in a news release.
“With strategic direction set by the City Plan, Council’s budget direction to reduce spending and focus on priorities, and Edmontonians’ requirements for core services, I am confident that these adjustments will equip us to accomplish the work at hand.”
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Mayor Amarjeet Sohi told reporters Wednesday council was elected with a mandate to improve core services, invest in transit and housing, and tackle climate change, and the city’s organization needs to respond to new priorities.
“That’s why this administrative structure, making it leaner and more responsive and nimble to meet the needs of Edmontonians, is important,” he said. “Our focus is to enhance frontline services, our focus is not austerity.
“Our focus is on (Edmontonians’) priorities … at the same time making sure our employees are looked after.”
Both deputy city manager positions eliminated were vacant following the sudden departures of Kim Armstrong and Catrin Owen announced in March. While an internal memo Postmedia obtained at the time noted the city’s restructuring plans, the city has not confirmed if departures were voluntary.
Corbould, in internal staff memo sent Wednesday and obtained by Postmedia, acknowledged changes may be “unsettling” to employees.
“I recognize that organizational changes can be unsettling. All of us on the executive leadership team are making decisions carefully, and focusing on ensuring that services continue to be delivered to the standard Edmontonians expect.”
The city is also looking to fill the position of deputy city manager of Urban Planning and Economy, which was vacated on Stephanie McCabe’s departure. McCabe has told Postmedia the departure was her decision.
Got a copy of a new org chart for Edmonton fire dept. Top is now, bottom is new structure (6 new managers).
Two vacant deputy fire chief jobs (currently filled by temp ‘acting’ dept. chiefs) will not be filled permanently. #yeg #yegcc pic.twitter.com/xD7Jnx7PCH
— Lauren Boothby (@laurby) June 29, 2023
Fire leadership changes
The fire department is eliminating two deputy chief roles currently filled by managers in a temporary “acting” role.
But each of the three deputy chiefs will have two new assistant deputy chiefs reporting to them, documents obtained by Postmedia show.
An internal Q&A for fire department staff states the organizational review was a “thoughtful process that looked at where changes among senior leadership roles were necessary to continue to advance the needs of the fire department.”
These changes are not related to the Rubin Thomlinson workplace assessment that revealed widespread dissatisfaction with fire leadership and concerns with bullying and discrimination, the Q&A states.
In his Wednesday memo, Corbould said changes in the fire department will “increase accountability and business leadership, and increase resourcing for workforce support, professional development and emergency management.”
Communications and employee services restructuring
The city’s restructuring will shift some communications staff to work under different departments while others will remain in a central area. Employee service’s human resources branch will move to another area, while other duties will come into the Legal Services branch.
Currently, the communications and engagement department has an annual budget of $34.2 million, with funding for 393.2 full-time-equivalent positions. Employee services’ 2023 budget is $30.4 million for 256 full-time jobs.
Corbould, in the internal memo, wrote there will be a new approach to communications and engagement that will “preserve corporate systems” and also “clarify accountability” while focusing on the city’s priorities.
A new communications branch, led by the new communications officer, will have two sections: “strategic services” and “integrated communications team.”
While the former will continue work on the website, graphics, media relations and crisis management, the latter will do marketing, external relations and research for areas the city has prioritized — areas identified in an overarching policy from 2019 called Connect Edmonton.
Some communications staff will also work inside the city’s different departments rather than working within a standalone communications agency.
For employee services, a number of leadership positions in the “people” side of the former department will be brought into a new division led by the new chief people officer and city solicitor. Other staff will move to various departments.
A recent audit found the employee services department was not fulfilling its mandate to review how various branches are dealing with overtime and absences, nor providing consistent training for branches to track this data.