I was surprised to learn today that the St. John's City Council had voted not to renew the contract of City Manager Bob Smart.
Last week, I attended a sub-committee of council that was discussing the municipalities participation in the establishment of a multipurpose field behind St. Paul's Jr. High on Newfoundland Drive. Mr. Smart was late arriving and did not appear as engaged as he normally was.
Mr. Smart was hired in 2011. He made some significant and positive changes to the way the city operated including introducing a three year budget cycle, enhanced planning, dealing with the city pension issues and re-organizing the reporting structure.
I had an opportunity to work with Mr. Smart when he was Deputy Minister of the Department of Forestry and Agrifoods. He had a 33 year career as a provincial public servant before moving to the bunker on Gower Street.
Robert Smart began his career in government
as an analyst with Treasury Board Secretariat. Over 33 years he has
served in a number of positions including: staff relations specialist;
director of Treasury Board staff; assistant deputy minister, finance and
administration with the Department of Career Development and Advanced
Studies; assistant deputy minister, Finance; Administration and Planning
with the Department of Education and Training; assistant secretary to
Treasury Board, Human Resources and assistant secretary to Treasury Board,
Human Resources and Budgeting. He served as a deputy
minister. Mr. Smart holds a bachelor of
commerce degree from Memorial University of Newfoundland.
His fierce defense of the public purse earned him the nick name Dr. NO. He was a a responsible guardian of the expenditure of public dollars.
I have a great deal of respect for Mr. Smart, no doubt his management style was an acquired taste but I always preferred honesty to power as opposed to ass kissing.
I know from talking to councilors and staff that Mr. Smart's hands on style created frustrations. His overhaul of overhaul of the city's top management positions started a mini coup. Some individuals resigned, others quietly plotted his demise by whispering into the ears of individual councilors.
I hope to learn more over the upcoming week about councilors decision not to renew his contract. His departure form City Hall is unfortunate.