Burlington City Manager Hassan Basit is pictured in a handout photo released by the City of Burlington in February 2024. Credit: Joey Coleman

Burlington’s new City Manager Hassaan Basit writes that the “first 100 days on the job … likely will be the most important time in the [city manager’s] career with the municipality.”

Today is day one for Basit as Burlington’s City Manager.

Marnie Cluckie, Hamilton’s new City Manager will reach Day 100 on Wednesday.

What should city managers do with their first 100 days?

Basit has literally written the book on this topic.

He recently co-authored a book chapter entitled “Using Your First 100 Days Strategically” in the textbook The Role of Canadian City Managers: In Their Own Words.

In the chapter, Basit and co-author Patrick Moyle write that the first 100 days are when a new city manager reveals their plans, personality, and management style, all of which will answer questions about how they will lead as the city’s top public employee.

“It will be a time when first impressions take on considerable importance as council and staff assess what they really have in their new leader.”

The new city manager must “present the most positive impression possible based on a thoughtful plan” during this time.

Don’t Make Sudden Moves During the First 100 Days – Wait a Few Months

Basit and Moyle write new city managers should not implement significant reorganizations of municipal administration.

“The biggest mistake and the most sudden move that some new [city managers] make is to implement the dreaded reorganization without taking the time to understand relationships and dependencies within and across departments.”

“To be clear, changes to structure and the people within that structure might need to occur, but you must do this correctly and prudently. The first three to six months is simply not sufficient time to understand the culture,”

They cite other books that show the “gunslinger” approach to change management does not work in municipal government.

Successful city managers know “how to manage change successfully by understanding and respecting the local culture and by thinking rationally and deliberately. They were not prone to making sudden moves.”

Build Networks and Relationships

“The first 100 days should involve the building of three networks, two external and one internal to the organization.”

They state new city managers should seek out more experienced city managers in other municipalities for advice, they should create relationships with “community leaders, such as successful businesspeople in the community, academics, and leaders from the not-for-profit sector, including organized community groups.”

New managers should be in the community, meet with major employers, and avoid becoming trapped inside a City Hall bubble.

They need to meet front-line municipal staff.

“It is imperative that, during the first 100 days, you, as the new CAO, get out of your corner office and meet the employees who deliver the services. The interface between the taxpayer and the municipality is not the CAO, but the civic employee who collects the taxes at the counter, issues the building permit, works in the local arena, ploughs and maintains the roads, drives the transit bus, and so on.”

Be Visible

“There is much mystery, uncertainty, and drama during the first 100 days, so be visible. If you remain bunkered down in your office or get pulled into the vortex of meetings and processes, the potential for angst and uncertainty increases proportionally to the time spent in your wellappointed office. If you are invisible, your persona and personal brand might be developed and defined by others.”

They suggest new managers visit outside facilities “especially those that have been identified in the capital budget forecast” to learn about municipal operations and hear from front-line staff. This will improve decision making.

Find Quick Wins

“There will be an expectation that the new leader will bring positive change and strive to improve the organization. Early wins, therefore, will help solidify your reputation, confirm that council made the right choice, and demonstrate to staff how you go about making decisions.”

Evaluate Existing Senior Leadership

In keeping with their opening advice to not make significant changes during the first six months as city manager, Basit and Moyle describe the first 100 days as “an opportunity to assess the senior leaders” both formally and informally.

New city managers need to determine the state of municipal leadership – is it functioning well or dysfunctional?

By the end of the first 100 days, a city manager “should be able to form a picture of the strengths and weaknesses” of senior leadership.


Barit and Moyle close their chapter with this paragraph:

“The first several months will set the stage for the balance of time you work for the community. A successful first impression can lead to a lasting and positive effect if you have an entry plan, together with the energy and commitment to lead your staff and be of service to council and the community.”

It will be interesting to see how closely Barit follows his own script.

TPR has requested a sit-down interview with Hamilton City Manager Marnie Cluckie to discuss her first 100 days.

Related: Pepper Parr writes that Basit “walks his Talk” in an op-ed published last week.

Production Details
v. 1.0.0
Published: April 22, 2024
Last edited: April 22, 2024
Author: Joey Coleman
Edit Record
v. 1.0.0 original version

Join the Conversation

1 Comment

  1. Apparently quite a number of City staff have left the City in the new City Managers first 100 days.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *