The Community Living Elgin memorandum popped up in mysterious fashion at the City Scope inbox to announce executive director Tom McCallum has opted to retire from the organization.
The timing of his decision raised eyebrows in that Community Living Elgin appeared to have fared well in a Ministry of Community and Social Services’ financial and accountability review, the results of which were released at the end of November.
You would think McCallum — no relation — would seek to move forward with his containment/modernization plan announced in August designed to address an estimated $700,000 deficit.
Also out of place was the retirement announcement, authored by board president Robert Ashcroft.
While it contained high praise for McCallum, there was nary a quote or parting comment from the soon-to-be-departed head.
Which prompted this reporter’s rumination McCallum may have faced pressure — subtle or otherwise — from the board of directors to pursue the retirement route.
That resulted in a good-natured email from Michelle Palmer who opened with the observation, “It is great to feel welcomed into the St. Thomas community and I appreciate it greatly.”
The greeting was in response to the Dec. 10 article in the Times-Journal which touched on the timing of McCallum’s retirement.
Palmer continued in her email, “Tom was not asked or encouraged to retire from Community Living Elgin. He had been talking about it for quite some time.”
Then that must be the case as Palmer is the executive director of Community Living Elgin and will provide leadership here in St. Thomas for the next year or so.
We talked at length with Palmer on Thursday to get a sense of what the future holds at the embattled organization which has endured picket lines, program cuts and the spectre of pending staff cuts.
“In the real short term, let’s get through the next week or two where I have the opportunity to interact with as many people as I can. Then we’re going to take a break for Christmas.
“In January, Palmer continued, “I’ve already told staff and people supported that I’ve met so far that I want to do a tour and see every single location where people are receiving supports.”
Palmer stressed she is an “open” person.
“You get what you see. And I hope to try working toward fostering that trust.”
And what lies in the cards for the balance of the new year? Palmer talked of “excitement” at the organization.
“In the longer term, I certainly want to see the organization get back to where it used to be. Let’s create that excitement, let’s create that trust, let’s continue to focus on the fact the people supported come Number 1.
“That has got to be our focus. If we all believe that all people have the right to be successfully supported in the community, that can be the one thing we have as common ground to keep moving forward.”
Is it important then to meet with a group of concerned parents who have struggled to have the former executive director and the board address their concerns about the status of services available to their family members?
Especially in light of this comment from one board member who huffed in an email, “I have a feeling that even if we were to address all these concerns, it would still not be enough to satisfy this group.”
“Of course all families are important,” stressed Palmer. “And to isolate it to one group of families, to me my focus is to all families. I am already in the process of inviting them to a meeting with me in early January.”
Next month then would appear to be a pivotal 31 days in Palmer’s interim leadership stint at Community Living Elgin.
A WARM WELCOME?
No, make that disgusting.
The tone of numerous individuals who posted comments to the Times-Journal Facebook page regarding a story this week dealing the imminent arrival of Syrian refugees in St. Thomas and Elgin.
The remarks were vile and smacked of fear-mongering. We will not repeat a word of any one of those comments. They do not warrant further exposure.
However we will document the responses of some readers who were obviously shocked at the mean-spirited, if not racist remarks that defiled the page.
“There are so many horrible minded people in this city it actually embarrasses me,” wrote Lisa Christine.
“I am truly disgusted by some of these comments. Its 2015 people lets start acting like it,” added Dawn Davidson Grant.
“I’m surprised and embarrassed by the majority of the comments shown,” agreed Cathy Mcgregor Smith.
And finally, “How about we remember to be kind, recognize how privileged we are and feel free to volunteer to “help our own” and our new-comers,” encouraged Shannon McGuigan.
Surely these observations better reflect the prevailing attitude of this community we call home.
FLAG FLAP FOLLOW-UP
How disappointing our city manager and council felt the need to adopt a flag protocol after the delay in lowering the flag at city hall on Remembrance Day.
The solution really is quite simple, advises reader Judy MacDonald.
“Do you think the city will have to set up a committee to arrange the protocol for the raising and lowering of our flag?” Judy writes in an email.
“Or maybe they could just follow the rules already set by our Canadian Heritage. I have attached the link below. Please feel free to pass it on to our council. This could avoid the hiring of a consultant.”
The link referred to by Judy is the federal government’s Canadian Heritage site at http://bit.ly/1O0JCuQ.
It doesn’t get any easier, does it?
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“I’ve told the staff I don’t have a magic bucket of money in my pocket but that doesn’t mean we have to close the door on discussions and strategizing and figuring this out together.”
City Scope appears Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.