New Hamilton City Manager Marnie Cluckie Credit: HANDOUT / City of Hamilton, City Manager's Office

Hamilton’s new City Manager Marnie Cluckie says she feared reprisals for speaking the truth and conducting herself ethically during the early stages of her municipal career.

“In the early stages of my career … one of the barriers was fear of personal consequence, fear of that reprisal,” Cluckie told an audience of municipal administrators in mid-December, only days after being announced as Hamilton’s new City Manager.

“It did hinder my approach.”

Her first ten years in municipal government were with the City of Hamilton.

“Speaking truth is vital,” she said. “We can’t kid ourselves, it does come with some inherent challenges as well.”

Cluckie said staff who speak and provide truthful statements can experience “fear of retaliation, backlash,” concerns about their “job security,” and “political pressures.”

Her comments came during a talk to the Ontario Municipal Administrators Association on the topic of ‘adapting to change’.

Cluckie says it is a challenging time for municipal leaders who are “seeing increased expectations from citizens and councillors,” “labour supply issues in the workforce,” post-pandemic increases in workloads, and “on top of that” a lack of civility including “abusive interactions” fueled by social media, from both citizens and elected officials.

Municipal leaders require “an adaptive leadership style that embraces change, helps maintain transparency, and strategically navigate that intricate balance between political nuances and governance imperatives in our municipal context.”

She says staff need support in these situations.

As she climbed the management ranks, Cluckie said gained experience helped her better handle ethical issues.

Senior staff must be transparent with the public and elected officials while mindful of “political sensitivity.”

“There’s this finesse you have around balancing that transparency,” she said.

Cluckie says the role of a City Manager is often about “bringing order to chaos.”

“Someone gave me a mug recently that calls me the chaos coordinator with a definition, and that really resonates for me as a CAO.”

Cluckie’s first day at Hamilton City Hall was Monday.

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Published: January 15, 2024
Last edited: January 15, 2024
Author: Joey Coleman
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2 replies on “Hamilton’s City Manager Says She Feared Reprisals for Speaking Truth as a Junior Staffer”

  1. Good God…another word salad chef.
    Absolutely nothing will get done with this one tossing the salad.

  2. I agree with this perspective. Approachable, friendly leaders, at all levels, who make time to listen to understand, who communicate well and with integrity, and who want to build a culture of shared purpose, inclusion and belonging need to have these qualities today. This helps any employee answer the fundamental question: Is this where I want to work?

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