The new chief administrative officer is excited about being in Stewiacke.
Anne MacDonnell started in the position early November, after Sheldon Dorey vacated the position on Sept. 1 after 17 years.
“I sort of see Stewiacke as being on the cusp of really substantial growth,” said MacDonnell, adding she had applied for several CAO positions in Nova Scotia (and was offered two) and hoped to be the successful candidate in Stewiacke.
“I see Stewiacke as a bedroom community – you want it to be more and you can see the potential of it to be more. When people go to a new area, they tend to go to the city – that’s where the jobs are. But with this town, you can raise your family. There are a lot of kids and everything is within walking distance. Communities don’t grow unless you’ve got young families joining.
“Stewiacke is well ahead of the 8-ball.”
Originally from New Glasgow, MacDonnell comes from a family that had an emphasis on civic responsibility, and community development and involvement. Numerous family members were involved with council, with her father serving for 16 years. MacDonnell herself has an educational background in business studies, completing her PhD at Swansea University in Wales, U.K. She spent 10 years working in Europe (eight in Wales and two in Germany) before returning to Canada in 2011. She’s taught math and finance in university, and also held a municipal clerk and administrative co-ordinator position with the Municipality of Queens County.
“I always had a goal of a senior municipal position in Nova Scotia,” she said.
Over the summer, MacDonnell said about eight to 10 CAO positions were available in the province, and she applied for quite a few. She was really aiming for Stewiacke, as it was “one of the ones most interesting” to her.
“What was really attractive to me was the process of which they identified their applicants,” she said.
Throughout the course of her career, MacDonnell has gone through academic interviews, the longest of which was six hours – meeting tons of people, making tons of presentations, and anticipating what questions she’d be asked.
“When it came to this position, they gave me a list of questions and what attracted me was the depth with which they drilled into my answers. I like to go deep into something – I like to understand it so I can explain it to the people,” she said, adding there was a wide scope to many questions, which told her there is a lot of variety in the CAO’s role.
During the second round of the interview process, MacDonnell said they had more questions for her.
“My take away was that they were dead serious about the position and they know what they want, and they know what direction they want to go in.”
She said she felt those hiring were genuinely interested in what she had to offer, which made her look forward to the role.
“Anytime you have harmonized objectives, that’s attractive,” she said.
While she currently doesn’t live in the town, she does have plans to re-locate in the future. One of the main reasons she has yet to make the move is a child in the middle of a school year.
Having been involved with the Multicultural Association of Pictou County, MacDonnell said one of the things that keeps immigrants in an area is the recreation opportunities, an area that has impressed her within the town.
“It’s great that Stewiacke has someone young, ambitious, and intelligent in the position. It’s a good asset to the community,” she said.
Council, she added, is also ambitious and the town is in a good financial position.
“Stewiacke has good direction and has a council that cares, and a community that supports itself. I got a really good vibe when I first came here.”
When it comes to the future of Stewiacke, MacDonnell said she has some ideas of her own, however they’ll come second to anything that’s brought forward to her.
One idea has already come forth, through members of the town’s business and tourism committee.
“They have a fantastic idea to increase the number of people coming into the town and going through, an idea that ties to adding to our own resources,” she said, not willing to divulge any other information.
Another opportunity MacDonnell finds exciting is the options with the water treatment plant and the real options with public/private partnerships.