Ponoka County wouldn’t have the successful CAO it does if the world of banking, in 1976, had been more exciting and stationary. But it wasn’t, leading one man down a long career path in municipal government.
During this year’s Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties (AAMDC) convention, Ponoka County CAO Charlie Cutforth received a Long Service Award for 35 years in municipal government.
He received his award Nov. 13, from Doug Griffiths, minister of municipal affairs.
Cutforth said he’s honoured to receive the award and be in the business that long. “I actually feel gratitude that it provided me with a good standard of living for that period of time.”
Not all of Cutforth’s years in municipal government have been in Ponoka. He spent his first three years as a financial controller with Lacombe County, five years in Wetaskiwin County as assistant CAO, and three years as CAO in Athabasca County before coming to Ponoka in 1987.
It all started when Cutforth was in his early 20s. He was working as a credit manager in a Bank of Montreal in Lacombe and had just gotten married.
He knew that during those early years working with the bank he could be transferred all over. “They wanted to move me to Yellowknife. Then they offered me Drumheller.”
However, his wife was from Lacombe and didn’t want to move. Cutforth knew if he refused too many transfers he be “buried” somewhere. So he stared looking for other work.
There was an opening for an accountant position with Lacombe County and Cutforth took the opportunity. “My dad was disgusted. You’re going to work for the government?” Cutforth remembers his father asking him.
His response: “I’m going to try.”
Cutforth enjoyed the people he worked with but accounting wasn’t enough for him; he was more ambitious. “I was bored to tears sitting in my office counting beans.”
The CAO positions he’s held were more Cutforth’s speed. “A guy’s got to have a reason to get up in the morning. The only reason we exist is to try and provide the best service we can to those people who have to pay taxes to get some service.”
Cutforth says as long as he follows that idea and tries to help he’ll be all right.
There are two other rules Cutforth lives by when it comes to his job. Rule 1: “When a taxpayer wants something bureaucracy comes to a halt and it’s dealt with.”
Cutforth says he’ll always be honest when it comes to taxpayers and their demands, even if it’s not what they want to hear. “You can’t always please everyone. It’s the nature of the beast.
Rule 2: “When a councillor wants something see Rule 1.”
However, Cutforth says it isn’t just his own ideas that led to his success. “One of the most critical things that has obviously helped with my success is the terrific people I work with. The people we have in Ponoka County are crackerjacks, they’re terrific people.”
Cutforth’s final philosophy is to hire the best people, turn them loose and back them up when they need it.