BERWICK, NS - It’s his first foray into municipal administration but Berwick’s new chief administrative officer is no stranger to the town or wider community.
Former Kings District RCMP Inspector Michael Payne took over from Don Regan as the Town of Berwick’s chief administrative officer (CAO) at the end of November. Payne said he has been warmly welcomed. He is enjoying his new job and has found it very rewarding so far.
Payne, who started working with the town in July, said he had the good fortune of working with Regan in transitioning into the CAO’s position. Regan had been with the town for almost 40 years, a lot of that time with the Berwick Electric Commission. Payne said he has “some big shoes to fill” and Regan did some “marvelous work” in his time as chief administrator.
Payne said he has quickly come to realize that although it’s in a different stream than policing, municipal administration is still public service.
He said perhaps the biggest adjustment for him is working with the Municipal Government Act and familiarizing himself with all the various processes and procedures involved. Payne said he is surrounded by great people at the Town of Berwick and this has helped in making the transition.
“I retired with 30 year’s service in policing and had a great policing career but it really was time to turn the page on that and look for something else to do,” Payne said.
Payne said little could he have imagined almost 20 years ago when he became the first detachment commander for Berwick after the town switched to RCMP service that the relationships he fostered then would come back to play such a significant role in the next phase of his professional life.
After leaving the Berwick RCMP detachment in 2002, Payne worked in Newfoundland and Labrador and in the Canadian north before returning to the Valley with his family in 2010 to become the officer in charge of the Kings District RCMP, based in New Minas.
He rekindled relationships with the Town of Berwick and other local municipalities, meeting with the various CAO’s and councils in dealing with public safety matters. Payne retired from the RCMP in the fall of 2017.
He worked with his wife, Jane, for a while in a business they own and she operates – Global Pet Foods in New Minas - but realized that he wasn’t quite ready to end his working life in public service. That was when the opportunity to become Berwick’s CAO presented itself.
Payne said Berwick is a wonderful town and this is predominantly because of its people. There is a strong spirit of community and volunteerism among residents. Payne said he experienced that first-hand living and working in the town 20 years ago.
He said the growth in the community over the past two to four years has been phenomenal. The town issued 25 building permits last year, representing a mix of residential and commercial development, and there is more on the horizon.
He said council and town staff is working to facilitate any and all business interest in the community. For example, Berwick is involved in a project that could result in the establishment of a hotel. Payne said this would be a wonderful addition to the area and would greatly complement the newly expanded Kings Mutual Century Centre, which now includes a town-run fitness centre and the Berwick Curling Club. He said the hotel efforts are looking positive but are still ongoing.
“It’s going to be the business community that will ultimately decide on whether a hotel actually comes to our community or not,” Payne said.
He said Berwick is somewhat unique as a municipal unit in that although it must adhere to the same procedures and processes as larger units, it’s small enough to remain nimble in working with the business community and promoting the kind of growth the town has seen over the last few years.
Climate of co-operation
Payne said there is a strong network of CAO’s across the province but particularly here in Kings County and across the Valley. They work well together, meet regularly and share a vested interest in a number of service organizations such as Kings Transit, Valley Waste Resource Management and the Valley Community Fibre Network.
Although Berwick council isn’t interested in discussing amalgamation, Payne said he and council are keenly interested in collaboration and partnering with municipal neighbours on other fronts. He said those conversations are underway.
Town council sets the direction for the community with a view to the future and provides resources but it’s typically the residents and businesses that work to achieve those goals. Payne said his overarching philosophy is to take the direction of council and have the town’s team of staff members work together to help bring the goals of the community and its people to fruition.
“I certainly work hard to keep them engaged, informed and supported in achieving that end,” he said.
Did you know?
- The Town of Berwick was incorporated in 1923.
- It is known as the Apple Capital because of its significant agricultural history, particularly in the apple industry.
- Berwick and surrounding communities have seen an increase in population and in recreational, residential and commercial development in recent years.
- According to the most recent statistics, Berwick’s population is 2,506.
- The town has its own electrical utility, the Berwick Electric Commission, and features a higher percentage of green energy production and lower rates than Nova Scotia Power.