After eight years as Halton Region's Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), Brent Marshall retired from that job Friday, but he's hoping he won't be away for long. That same day, the Acton resident filed as a candidate for the regional chairman's post in next month's municipal election. "It's a surprise to a lot of people, but not a surprise to a number of other individuals who have been supporting me and encouraging me to take this step for a number of months now," said Marshall in an Independent & Free Press interview on Monday. Marshall, 56, called the support and encouragement from business leaders and elected officials, from all levels of government, to seek Halton's top elected job "quite humbling." It started soon after current regional chairman Joyce Savoline announced last December she wouldn't be running for re-election. Until then, Marshall said he hadn't really considered seeking the chairman's post, but did think at some point after he retired he might try for a local or regional council seat. "I had always been interested in the political side of life because of my community activities," said Marshall. "I've been a volunteer in my hometoen forever." He has been a volunteer firefighter with the Halton Hills Fire Protection and Prevention Services for 35 years, serving as the district chief of the Acton station for approximately 15 years. Marshall is also a life member and past president of the Acton Agricultural Society and is co-chair of the society's fundraising committee. The lifelong Acton resident was also a minor hockey coach for 15 years and served on the board of the Acton Figure Skating Club. "There is no ego attached to this (running for the regional chairman's post). It is about serving my community in the best way possible," he said. Marshall did not want to take a leave of absence to run for the job. "I didn't want any mixed messages that this was a half-hearted attempt to jump into the political life," said Marshall, who has been CAO since 1998.
Jane MacCaskill, Halton's commissioner of corporate services, has been appointed acting CAO. Marshall said Halton Region is in excellent shape, evidenced by a 16-year history with a AAA credit rating as a result of wise financial and overall management. He stressed the continuation of "strong, effective, visionary leadership" is important to the public. Marshall said it's important to have someone in the regional chairman's job who understands the complexity of the issues and has good relationships with elected and government officials at all government levels. Marshall said he fits that bill. "To lose that history and strength, and to start out with someone who doesn't have that background, that would be a setback for the people (of Halton)." He believes his experience as the Region's CAO is a big asset, and said he has an understanding of both the role of staff and elected officials. "There's no mystery around what I stand for. There's no risk. There's no guesswork. It's community first." He said managing the growth targeted for Halton would be a key issue in the future. "What we have the opportunity to do is to decide how to react to that." Marshall's competition in the election comes from Gary Carr and Robert Plaschka, both of Burlington, and Brian Burton of Oakville. Marshall began his municipal career in 1970 as a labourer for the Town of Acton. He moved up to lead hand, sub foreman, foreman and supervisor and in 1974 joined Halton Region, where he moved steadily up the ranks. He has worked as Halton's director of environ mental services, director of maintenance and commissioner of planning and public works until he was appointed CAO. He is a certified municipal manager and clerk/treasurer, graduated from the Ontario Fire College and has taken several municipal-related university courses. Marshall is the father of three grown children. His wife Janet died of cancer three years ago.