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New CAO looks forward to continuing to serve public

Bill Fletcher — who is ready for his family to put down roots in St. Albert — said he is "genuinely humbled" by the opportunity to serve the community.
1805 cao interview file CC
Bill Fletcher (centre) said his former career in the military has given him a strong foundation to lead the City of St. Albert's staff. FILE PHOTO/St. Albert Gazette

St. Albert’s new chief administrative officer says his decision to switch career paths to lead the City’s staff wasn’t a difficult one to make.   

Bill Fletcher, a former military commander of the 3rd Canadian Division, has moved back to his home of St. Albert several times over the years and is now ready to put down roots.

Fletcher spent 33 years in the Canadian army and said throughout his tenure his family and children have been “incredibly supportive” of the frequent moves that define his work.

“I think the longest we’ve stayed in one spot together was three years,” Fletcher said. 

Being unable to stay in one place has meant Fletcher’s family has had to make sacrifices. However, he noted travelling around hasn’t been entirely negative, with his family experiencing life in different places, including the United States. 

Among the places his family has lived, St. Albert always stood out for its strong sense of community, Fletcher said.  

“We have been welcomed with open arms,” Fletcher said. “That doesn’t happen everywhere.”

Fletcher and his family moved back to St. Albert in 2020 to fill his most recent position overseeing Canada’s soldiers in their training to respond to domestic emergencies in Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Edmonton. 

In the top position in western Canada for someone at his rank, the future of his career would likely entail another move, Fletcher said. With his wife working as a teacher, one child going into high school, and another in middle school, Fletcher’s family decided it would be best to remain in St. Albert during these critical years. 

“They love the community,” Fletcher said. “The thought of going without my family was really the trigger that made me decide to stay here.”

Fletcher said the job description for CAO stood out to him because it would allow him to continue to “be useful to people.”

“I would be ultimately serving the citizens of St. Albert and helping to continue ensuring it remains a vibrant community,” Fletcher said. “That, to me, was really exciting.”

Prepared for the role

While Fletcher said he is expecting a learning curve when he steps into his new position on June 13, he said it will not be “as steep as some people might think.”

In his position as commander, Fletcher was responsible for the west side of Canada, all the way from Thunder Bay, Ont., to Vancouver Island, as well as up north. He said the job involves infrastructure management, including overseeing a significant budget of taxpayer dollars, something he believes will transfer well to his role at the City. 

Additionally, Fletcher said his time in the military has fostered a strong leadership ability, which he said involves a “tried and true” focus on people, results, and recognizing excellence. 

“All those things absolutely apply to the City of St. Albert,” Fletcher said. “Ensuring people know what they’re expected to do and find their value and … are appreciated for what they deliver.”

Fletcher said his experience has also led him to establish municipal and provincial government connections in the greater Edmonton area. These relationships stem from time spent advocating for quality of life for soldiers in the communities they live and work in, and through planning for domestic response preparedness for disasters such as floods and fires. 

Former military colleagues who have made successful transitions into the Alberta government, as well as city administration in Edmonton and Leduc, are also examples of relationships Fletcher said he will carry with him into his new role. 

“It's not about speaking the same language or a sort of a shared experience level, it's really about the trust that has already been fostered,” Fletcher said of these relationships. “I think that's something that will be very useful, both in terms of my ability to integrate, and then also our ability to co-operate as we look at regional solutions to problems and challenges.”

When asked what aspects of the role he anticipates will be the most challenging, Fletcher joked that picking out what to wear ranks high on his list after years of being in uniform. 

“It’s a bit stressful, trying to make sure that I don’t wear crazy colours,” Fletcher laughed. 

On a more serious note, Fletcher said getting a handle on the cultural differences that might exist between City staff and the military will be a challenge, but added that meeting the City’s team is also what he’s most looking forward to. 

“That will be the biggest priority — to hear from folks, see what the ground truth is,” Fletcher said. “Life according to everybody, from the folks who work at Fountain Park pool all the way up through the executive level in the administration.”

Fletcher said he feels “genuinely humbled” by the opportunity to serve St. Albert, which he described as an “incredible” community. 

“As I’ve been serving Canadians for the last 33 years, I want to continue that philosophy of serving people,” Fletcher said. “That will be the piece that underpins everything.”  

Rachel Narvey

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