Her background is in human resources, so it’s not surprising to hear Lisa Burnside talk about the importance of people and their safety as she takes over as the Hamilton Conservation Authority’s new chief administrative officer.
But the Ancaster resident is quick to outline a litany of other issues she’s excited to tackle, like ensuring the authority is financially sustainable and relevant while meeting a mandate to protect people and property from flooding and erosion.
Ultimately, though, she said her love of natural areas first drew her to the public agency when she joined it in 2002 after working for a local steel company.
“I was really thrilled when I saw an opportunity that I could work locally and I could work for an environmental organization,” said Burnside, elevated to the top job from her previous position as human resources director on Feb. 2.
"She is more than ready for her new role.”
The McMaster University labour studies graduate replaces Chris Firth-Eagland, who will guide her transition over the next two months, and is the first woman to occupy the authority’s highest administrative post.
Among her priorities, she said, will be helping shepherd a master plan for the property the authority acquired next to Westfield Heritage Village and establishing the new conservation area in upper Stoney Creek.
Burnside won out over the other finalist for the job, Scott Peck, the authority’s director of watershed planning and engineering.
At 46, she noted she has more time to grow into her role than her immediate two predecessors, who both retired after five-year stints.
“I’m certainly looking forward to a longer tenure,” she said. “I’m looking forward to working with the board and the staff here on the many ongoing projects that we’ve got.”
Her appointment came as authority directors acclaimed Flamborough Coun. Robert Pasuta and citizen member Santina Moccio to third terms, respectively, as chair and vice-chair.
Moccio, who chaired the CAO hiring committee, said Burnside’s selection was unanimous and reflected her experience and record at the authority over the past 15 years.
“Lisa is well established and respected in the HCA, and she’s very familiar with its people, projects, lands, challenges and opportunities,” Moccio said.
“She has worked closely with past CAOs to develop her skills in preparation for this opportunity and she is more than ready for her new role.”