President and Chief Administrative Officer (CAO)

The Opportunity: The Board of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative (Cities Initiative) seeks an innovative President/CAO who can take the work of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Mayors to a new level of strategic impact. The President/CAO operates out of the Chicago office. More information about the Cities Initiative can be found here.

Freshwater is a major global resource. The Mayors on the shores of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River recognize this asset on a daily basis as they work to protect the Basin, River and related watershed– the largest source of surface freshwater in the world. The system contains over 20% of the world’s surface freshwater and is the primary water source for over 40 million people.

Formed in 2003, the Cities Initiative evolved from the blending of the Canadian-based International Association of Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Mayors and the United States-based Great Lakes Cities Initiative. The merger created a single, stronger presence for local governments at the international, federal, state, tribal and provincial decision-making tables for a broad range of issues affecting the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence River and Georgian Bay.

The Mayors see the Lakes and River, and related watersheds, as central to the economic well being of their cities and the quality of life for citizens across the region. The Cities Initiative advances water quality, water quantity, and waterfront vitality through a wide range of activities, including education, best practices, cooperation, leadership, and action. The Cities Initiative’s current membership includes 127 city mayors from the eight US states and two Canadian provinces that surround the Lakes and River. A Board of 16 Mayors govern the organization that is staffed by six professionals located in Canada and the US. The Cities Initiative is headquartered in Chicago.

The Cities Initiative is currently engaged on many fronts across the region including: lead in drinking water, working with the agricultural sector to address nutrients causing harmful algal blooms, Great Lakes Basin water diversions, Asian carp, and joining the Compact of Mayors to help cities reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and reduce the municipal contribution to climate change. The new President/CAO will be charged with helping the Mayors strategically focus human and financial resources for highest positive impact. The current annual operating budget for the Cities Initiative is approximately $700,000.

Key Responsibilities and Roles
Coalescing the diverse interests and priorities of a bi-national association of municipalities requires highly developed coalition building and collaboration skills. In addition, the Cities Initiative requires a spirited and joyful President/CAO, that can help the board and staff chart a bold strategic course and then rally the necessary human and financial resources to successfully navigate that course.

The President/CAO will be a skilled leader with a keen understanding of fresh water issues and policies. He/She will understand the roles and powers of municipal governments and how to coalesce their collective power to effect change.

The President/CAO will have the skills needed to run a non-profit organization and build and support a professional staff and facilitate strong board leadership. He/She must be confident managing remote staff in Canada and the United States, overseeing operating budgets and raising needed funds.

Core Competencies and Attributes

  • Knowledgeable and Effective Fresh Water Advocate
    • Deep appreciation for the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River as global resources
    • Strong knowledge of policies that impact fresh water
  • A seasoned networker
    • Has strong networks that will enhance the work of the Cities Initiative
    • Experience building alliances toward a common cause
    • Skilled collaborator
  • Knowledgeable about municipal government
    • Skilled at understanding how municipal governments can best leverage collective change
    • Skilled at seeing opportunities for municipal governments to model programs that improve the Lakes and River while benefiting their communities
    • Proven capacity to facilitate Board leadership on region wide issues
  • Effective at managing a non-profit
    • Skilled at managing a professional staff and deploying staff talents in the most effective and efficient manner
    • Experienced at building and supporting board leadership
    • Experienced and successful with raising money and resources
    • Experienced with establishing and implementing strategic plans
  • Skilled communicator
    • Great political instincts with respect to messaging
    • Confident spokesperson
    • Comfortable using all types of communication platforms, including social media
    • Proven oral and written communication skills


  • Passion for freshwater
  • As a bi-national organization, regular international travel is required
  • Non-profit administration, management and fundraising experience
  • Politically savvy with policy experience
  • Skilled communicator (Bilingual -English and French- a plus)
  • Proven leadership abilities
  • Clear and strategic thinker
  • Naturally optimistic and collaborative


Application Process: The Cities Initiative has hired SAL Consulting Inc. to manage the search and inquiries may be sent to Applications will be accepted until 11:59 PM on January 27, 2017. The Mayors strongly value diversity and earnestly invite a diverse pool of applicants. Applications must include:

  • A cover letter that outlines your interest in this position and the experience that prepares you for the role as outlined.
  • A resume
  • Applications should be sent via e-mail to the following e-mail address, with only YOUR NAME in the subject line: