COCHRANE— The Town of Cochrane welcomed new CAO Mike Derricott to the job on Jan. 4.
It has been exciting taking on the role of CAO, Derricott said, describing the first week as a “wonderful whirlwind of learning” and virtual meetings.
Several personal and professional factors drew Derricott to Cochrane. On the personal side, Derricott and his wife grew up in Southern Alberta and saw Cochrane as a “return home.” He said they love the area and appreciate being closer to their families and the quality school system in town.
“Cochrane offers an incredibly high quality of life,” Derricott said. “Our family was just thrilled and excited to be part of all the great stuff that Cochrane has to offer.”
Serving as Cochrane CAO offers Derricott the chance to engage with an organization that has a challenging and dynamic context, he said.
“Cochrane was just a great fit for me to move into the next stage of my career,” Derricott said. “I feel quite humbled and thrilled with the opportunity and look forward to working on behalf of the people of Cochrane.”
Two of the especially interesting aspects of the Town are its membership in the Calgary Metropolitan Region Board and the exponential growth Cochrane has experienced in recent years.
Participating in and learning about the Calgary Metropolitan Region Board is interesting to be a part of, Derricott said, given the role it will play in facilitating cooperation between growing municipalities around Calgary.
“We’re collectively working to create the best outcomes we can in shared space,” Derricott said. "It’s always an interesting process.”
The focus for the first six months on the job will be learning about the work taking place in the community and the organization of the Town of Cochrane, he said.
Derricott added community building is a “marathon activity” that takes commitment to a certain set of values and principles that are then applied to create a foundation for growth.
“Our focus is on doing what’s right for the residents and taxpayers of our communities,” Derricott said. “We have their best interests at heart and we’re constantly working to improve all the parts of the community that they interact with.”
COVID-19 has added another layer to what is already a pretty intensive process when joining an organization— Especially one as varied and dynamic as the Town of Cochrane.
Derricott said he appreciated the work the organization has done to set up opportunities to interact with as many people as possible. However, he noted it will take longer to meet everyone given the limitations for in-person interactions created by the pandemic.
“I’ve been very encouraged by the energy of the organization and the staff and engagement and their continued interest to figure out, even though it's been challenging,” Derricott said.
Moving forward “balance will be the order of the day” and this will include taking time to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic and social impacts it has had on the town and on the individual level.
“Hopefully in the next few weeks we can see some success with the pandemic level at the provincial level that will allow us to get our feet under us and start to build back up to dealing with some of the ‘normal’ challenges that still exist,” Derricott said. “Right now, there’s a huge focus on resiliency.”
Derricott praised the Social and Economic Recovery Task Forces and the efforts the Town has prepared to help the Town rebuild and reinvigorate the community after the pandemic has come to an end.
As CAO Derricott will serve on Cochrane’s Emergency Coordination Centre as the Director of Emergency Management, with support from deputy directors Stacy Loe and Shawn Polley.
Derricott said he is comfortable with the role, as he served in similar positions in his past community.
“It’s just such a critical part of what we’re doing right now I just think getting right at the table and connected and integrated into that function was a pretty important priority,” Derricott said.
Prior to moving to Cochrane Derricott served as the municipal CAO in Edson, Alta for six years.
While there he learned the importance of balancing economic, social, environmental and risk management responsibilities when building a community.
One of the biggest challenges has been balancing the economic realities communities face, he said. Derricott added the adversity the province has faced economically has put pressure on resources.
“You have to be really sure the projects and programs you’re investing in are the ones that are producing the highest value,” Derricott said.
He will be working with the community to ensure staff are focussed on and connected to the priorities set by Town Council based on community needs.
“It’s my job to connect that all together and bring that forward,” Derricott said. “We can meet the people where they are even though that is changing pretty quickly.”
He noted 2021 is also unique as the Town is currently preparing for a municipal election in the fall.
“We have a period of time here where we want to help this existing council accomplish some of the important pieces, they’ve been working on for the last three, three-and-a-half years, and ensure we do our best to move some of those important pieces forward,” Derricott said. “Then, obviously, we’ll be moving forward into supporting the democratic process of the section of the new town council in the fall— We’ve got a lot to do in a relatively short amount of time.”