Office of the Chief Administrative Officer

The Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) is the most senior official in the City’s administrative structure. The role is appointed by and reports directly to City Council for the policies and programs delivered by City employees. The CAO is supported by three Deputy Chief Administrative Officers who join him on the City’s Executive Team.

The Office of the CAO oversees the following functions:

The Office of Strategy, Innovation and Intergovernmental Services supports exceptional City leadership, accountability and service excellence by building strong relationships with other levels of government, citizens and stakeholders. The department partners with others to create and implement corporate-wide strategy, policy and programs to support the organization to innovate, improve and meet its corporate and service area goals.
The Department offers strategic legal advice and guidance to City Council and City departments, ensures accountability and transparency, protects the City’s interests, manages corporate risk and provides realty services for the Corporation.
Internal Audit is an independent assurance and consulting function designed to add value and improve the City’s operations and systems of internal controls. Internal Audit brings a systematic, disciplined approach to evaluating and improving the effectiveness of risk management, control and governance processes.

The Corporate Communications department provides communications services through a variety of channels to various audiences. The department supports the City and its departments by providing timely, relevant, objective, factual, easy-to-understand information and engagement opportunities to citizens.The department provides strategic and tactical communications services that enable the City to meet its business and service goals.

The Business Process Management department provides coordination of process improvement and process management activities, to support the efficient and effective delivery of city services. The department supports the organization with standards, methodologies, education, project support, and coaching as well as consistent, repeatable, reliable approaches to process analysis and management, business service reviews, change management, improved reporting of process performance and facilitating continuous improvement.

Related information


My career focus

Derrick Thomson, Chief Administrative Officer

Derrick Thomson, Chief Administrative Officer

My career has been entirely focused on service to the public and my colleagues. I started sharpening skates when I was 16 years old and worked through facilities management to internal audit to public services. I’ve progressed step by step and was supported by good leaders and organizations. I was given every opportunity to learn and develop, and it’s my turn to make sure that everyone at the City of Guelph has those same opportunities.I have a Masters Certificate in Municipal Administration from York University. I was at the City of Brampton from 1984 to 2008; was the CAO of the Township of West Lincoln from 2008 to 2013; and I’ve been at the City of Guelph since 2013.

My areas of focus

In September 2016, City Council endorsed a Corporate Administrative Plan (CAP) that focuses on long-term benefits and results for the community and will make best use of the City’s assets to build a solid foundation. The CAP puts a renewed focus on our operations—making sure our people have what they need to deliver exceptional public service.

The plan sets out three goals:

  • Service excellence: delivering quality service and showing results
  • Financial stability: managing our resources to achieve maximum public value
  • Innovation: modernizing how the City works

Three programs of work encompass initiatives that will help the City to accomplish its goals:

Service modernization: Delivering municipal services that make lives better. The City will deliver easy access to the services our community needs and provide an exceptional service experience.

Leadership and engagement: Building a great community together. Policies and practices that encourage an environment of openness and culture of collaboration to promote employee development, growth and satisfaction.

Sustainable resources: Ensuring a solid foundation for a growing city. A disciplined, long-term approach that ensures financial stability and maximum value from our municipal assets.

Leadership philosophy

My philosophy is simple:

  • Trust the people you work with;
  • Respect their experience, knowledge and passion;
  • And provide every opportunity possible to your employees so they can grow and develop.

I believe that people should look forward to coming to work; that they should feel valued, challenged and celebrated. It’s absolutely critical that we hold each other accountable and lift each other up.

It’s time that we re-establish pride in the public service at all levels. It’s time for us to collaborate more than compete, to be curious more than we’re complacent, and to think from the citizen’s perspective rather than our own.

CAO Priorities

The CAO has identified the following priorities (2017/18) to maintain and build momentum for the City of Guelph. They are:

  1. Implement the medium-term Corporate Administrative Plan that aims to achieve service excellence, financial stability and innovation
  • Evaluate the impact of the plan, providing regular performance updates to council and stakeholders
  1. Make final recommendations to Council regarding the future of Guelph Hydro and related unregulated assets (Envida)
  • Provide leadership and support to the Strategies and Options Committee to develop and deliver recommendations
  • Make recommendations for stabilizing Envida assets
  1. Oversee the successful completion of the first two years of service reviews as per plan
  • Boulevard Maintenance review has started with preliminary scoping activities in June 2017
  • The Transit Services review will commence late September 2017, pending completion of collective bargaining activity
  1. Provide the public with better reports on the City’s performance, value to the community and continuous organizational improvement
  • Continue development of the Accountability and Performance Management Framework (2017/2018) to formalize continuous improvement practices across the organization
  • Launch a pilot public performance dashboard for Fall 2017
  • Create streamlined corporate and service area annual reports in 2018
  1. Take steps to improve employee engagement and culture across the organization:
  • Implement the Talent Blue Print
  • Continue CAO Town Halls and other outreach activities to employees across the organization
  • Continue the roll out of the Leadership Charter
  1. Work with Council from 2017 to 2019 to engage the community to develop options for a Community Plan
  • Complete Phase 1 “Listening and Engagement” and Phase 2 “Plan Development”


At the City of Guelph we’re growing a culture of innovation and service modernization across all City departments. It’s a corporate priority to accelerate the delivery of digital services for citizens by partnering with departments to modernize their public services.

These initiatives are some of the ways we are delivering on that priority.