Parrish replaces CAO; rescinds powers previously granted to City Hall’s top bureaucrat
(City of Mississauga) 

Parrish replaces CAO; rescinds powers previously granted to City Hall’s top bureaucrat

Less than 24 hours into her new role as Mayor, Carolyn Parrish has shaken up senior leadership inside City Hall.

Using her strong mayor powers — something Parrish said she would do to help get more critically needed housing built across the city — she announced Geoff Wright will serve for now as the City’s top bureaucrat, replacing Shari Lichterman, “effective immediately”.

Wright will act as Mississauga’s interim CAO and City Manager until December 31. He has been with the City of Mississauga for 17 years previously serving as the Commissioner of Transportation and Works — a role he has held since 2016.

In a media release on the City’s website, Parrish said she is pleased Wright has accepted the role, adding she has “full confidence in his abilities as he brings a wealth of experience and expertise to the role.”

When asked about the reasoning behind the staffing shuffle, Parrish told The Pointer she “won’t be commenting on personnel issues.”

The comment follows a statement made Monday evening that alluded to a possible shift. Following the swearing-in ceremony, when asked if Lichterman would be staying on as the City’s CAO or if Parrish would use strong mayor powers to remove her, the new mayor told reporters, “I choose not to answer that question.”

A spokesperson from the City confirmed in an email to The Pointer on Thursday that Lichterman was “no longer employed by the City,” a decision that “was implemented through a Mayoral Decision.” Lichterman, who has held several senior management positions during her nine years with the City of Mississauga, was absent from Wednesday’s council meeting.

It is common for new mayors to hire a CAO of their choosing, to help run the administration in tandem with the head of council’s objectives and style.

The spokesperson also confirmed City solicitor Andra Maxwell, who has held the role since 2019, had resigned as of Thursday morning. Reporting to Lichterman, Maxwell was responsible for managing and overseeing the City’s legal services team, including providing legal support and guidance to council, senior leaders and City staff on administering municipal services and programs.

Lichterman was promoted to the City’s highest-ranking position in May last year after former CAO and city manager Paul Mitcham resigned following nearly three decades of service with the City. In the wake of Mitcham’s departure, council promptly approved a notice of motion to appoint Lichterman and Wright on a rotating basis to take over the CAO’s duties in the interim while a recruitment process was conducted. Lichterman was later appointed full time to the position.  

Under traditional municipal practices, members of Council would deliberate and determine whether a CAO would be fired and who would become the next CAO. But strong mayor powers granted by the Province have overridden that decision-making process. It is a practice Caledon Mayor Annette Groves exercised last August when she removed Carey Herd and appointed Nathan Hyde as the Town’s CAO.


Mayor Carolyn Parrish declined to comment when asked by reporters during her swearing in ceremony Monday evening whether she would be appointing a new CAO.

(Paige Peacock/The Pointer) 


As she shuffles the City’s senior leadership, Parrish also used her powers to reverse a previous decision made by former mayor Bonnie Crombie in July last year that delegated authority to the CAO/city manager — Lichterman at the time — to determine the organizational structure of City Hall and to hire and dismiss certain officials (not including commissioners). Parrish’s decision, which rescinds the powers previously handed down to the City’s CAO, came into effect June 25, the day after she was sworn in.

The CAO is responsible for the overall administration of the City, acting as the senior liaison between Mississauga staff, the mayor and councillors. They report directly to the Mayor and City Council, while overseeing the operations, services and programs delivered by the municipality. They are also in charge of developing the City’s corporate policy and advising on economic development and legal services, while helping guide the annual budget process to create the road map for the municipality. 

Lichterman had been at the centre of some controversy inside City Hall during her time with the municipality. 

She first faced criticism when residents and staff raised concern about City Hall’s participation in the use of disrespectful names and imagery stereotypically associated with Indigenous communities which cause harm to many First Nations and Indigenous members. An internal email sent to staff by Lichterman in 2018, when she was director of recreation, shared with The Pointer, referred to a deeply offensive name used for a local hockey club.

Despite being aware of residents’ concerns and knowing the sensitive nature of the issue, Lichterman told staff that no agreement to stop using the name had been reached. She repeated the offensive term in her email and told staff that it was “business as usual as it relates to the teams playing and practicing in our buildings and wearing their jerseys.” The correspondence left staff who communicated with The Pointer disappointed over the lack of action by Lichterman, and by what they described as behaviour that created an uncomfortable workplace culture. 

Instead of apologizing for the use of the term in her email to staff and the tone of the correspondence, she told The Pointer, “The tone of the email was intended to be clear and direct...”. 

Lichterman came under the microscope again in 2021. During the pandemic, as community members fought to save a local outdoor skating rink in the Burnhamthorpe Road and Dixie Road area that was slated to be bulldozed, Lichterman, who had been promoted to commissioner of community services by then, belittled the effort of neighbourhood residents to save the beloved local rink. As a petition to stop the City circulated, Lichterman said people who signed it were being asked to do so, “as they’re showing up to the rink to skate in a pandemic when it’s the only thing for them to do.” She suggested a “vocal group of residents” was exaggerating the benefit and popularity of the rink. Residents later told The Pointer they were appalled by Lichterman’s attitude toward them. 

When asked on Thursday who will be appointed as Commissioner of Transportation and Works and what the hiring process and timeline for replacing Maxwell will be, a City spokesperson said more details “will be available soon.”



Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @mcpaigepeacock

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