After more than three decades of working and volunteering in a variety of public roles, Chris Firth-Eagland is getting ready to ride off into the sunset.
The Hamilton Conservation Authority’s chief administrative officer will retire on Feb. 2, when directors are scheduled to name his successor, although he plans to stay on for a while afterwards to help with the transition.
“I think I’ve done my community service and it’s time to hang up my boots,” said Firth-Eagland, 65, an avid equestrian who owns a horse farm on Governor’s Road in Dundas.
“I’m retiring right on schedule,” he said. “I believe in some of those old-fashioned, traditionalist things. It helps make room in the workforce for our energetic, engaged and well-trained and well-versed younger staff.”
“He tightened the purse strings up and it worked. People looked around and some of them pulled up their pants and got to work.”
Firth-Eagland said the authority is in the process of hiring a new CAO and will select from internal candidates, reflecting a push to mentor talent from within at a time when authorities across the province are losing senior people to retirement.
“I’m very, very confident for how things will be here for the future,” he said.
When he took over from Steve Miazga in 2012, Firth-Eagland was already a familiar face at the authority, having served on the board of directors for 11 years, including seven as chair, before not seeking reappointment in 2011.
He brought a wealth of other public-service experience, having worked in several senior capacities at the city since 1984, including as acting director of public works and manager of streets and sanitation.
Other stints saw him take lead roles in helping develop the Bayfront and Pier 4 parks, and work with the Waterfront Trust to build trails along the lake and around the harbour.
Authority chair Robert Pasuta said Firth-Eagland shepherded several land acquisitions during his tenure, including new conservation areas in upper Stoney Creek and by Westfield Heritage Village in Rockton.
“As far as I’m concerned he did a great job.” the Flamborough councillor said. “His heart was in it all the way through. (He was) always energetic about new ideas and things and liked to see them come to fruition.”
But Pasuta said Firth-Eagland also administered some needed budgetary discipline by cutting several contract staff positions that had put the authority in a deficit position.
“I understand it was tough for some people who didn’t stay on or keep their jobs, but something had to happen,” Pasuta said.
“Somebody had to come in who had the capacity to wean a lot of people off the milk bottle,” he said. “He tightened the purse strings up and it worked. People looked around and some of them pulled up their pants and got to work.”