Thu. May 26th, 2022

“You can literally affect life in this community in ways you would not believe,” he said.

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Anthony Di Monte initially resisted the idea of ​​shopping in his paramedic uniform for a jacket when he was asked to join the top ranks of Ottawa’s municipal bureaucracy.

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“Being head of the paramedical service was the pinnacle of my career,” Di Monte said in an interview Friday.

But it was hard to say no to Mayor Steve Kanellakos, who wanted Di Monte to head the emergency and protection department.

Di Monte could not have predicted in 2017, when he was appointed full-time general manager, that the coming years would be historic for this leadership position, deal with natural disasters such as floods and tornadoes, and help lead the local response to a global public health crisis.

After a hectic period as department head, Di Monte is ready to drop the suit on October 29 when he retires from City Hall. He announced his retirement plans last week, and the city has launched a national search to fill the job.

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Di Monte has had a higher profile in Ottawa’s municipal government compared to most leaders.

For much of 2021, he led a task force on COVID-19 vaccines and provided weekly updates on how many doses came to town and are administered at clinics. When he did not talk about vaccines, he answered questions about pandemic-related law enforcement. Prior to joining the GM job, he was head of the Ottawa Paramedic Service, which promoted the work of physicians and briefed the public on major and often tragic emergencies.

Di Monte, 62, said he and his wife Lise are now empty nest. Their three grown children have moved out and it just seems like a good time to retire.

“How many summers do you have left in life? That is the question that came up, ”said Di Monte, noting that he was in good health. “I want to use it with my kids and do other activities.”

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That probably means travel and lots of skiing. He has also volunteered for the Canadian ski patrol for the past 17 years at Camp Fortune, when there has been a rare break in his usual 24-hour demands at City Hall.

Di Monte’s retirement will end a 42-year career in public service, first as a paramedic on the front lines of Montreal.

“And some of them are pretty hard miles,” he said, listing his roles, which included commanding roles for incidents during the bombing of Montreal Central Station in 1984, University of Montreal shootings in 1989 and Concordia University shootings in 1992.

There was also some fun.

As an admitted “F1 fanatic”, he worked on the medical program for the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal for several years.

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Anthony Di Monte, pictured far right in this file, has led the city's COVID-19 vaccine task force for most of 2021. Errol McGihon / Postmedia
Anthony Di Monte, pictured far right in this file, has led the city’s COVID-19 vaccine task force for most of 2021. Errol McGihon / Postmedia Photo by Errol McGihon /Postmedia

Di Monte was the first paramedic head of the merged city of Ottawa in 2001. He was former head of emergency medical services in the York Region and jumped on the bandwagon in the country’s capital to lead a major paramedic service – he recalled the excitement of building a bottom-up shipping system – and be closer to the family in Montreal.

When Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was shot at the National War Memorial on October 22, 2014, Di Monte was one of the first respondents. He had just left City Hall after some meetings with management and heard a call to the dispatch for a cardiac arrest at the memorial. He decided to stop by to support his doctors and quickly learned that it was more than a heart attack.

Di Monte became full-time general manager in February 2017 after spending months as acting GM. In the interview on Friday, he revealed that he rejected the promotion twice.

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Accepting the GM job meant taking on overall oversight of the paramedic services, fire department, bylaws, emergency management and corporate safety. That meant he had to help deal with floods and tornadoes, write bylaws to regulate things like Uber and Airbnb, and protect residents from COVID-19.

He was considering retiring in 2020, but COVID-19 scrubbed that plan because he knew there was a big job ahead. Kanellakos tapped Di Monte to lead the city’s COVID-19 vaccination team and help Ottawa Public Health and hospitals move quickly to get needles in their arm.

While the push continues to get Ottawa residents vaccinated, Di Monte said City Hall’s acute pandemic response has subsided (the city’s state of emergency related to COVID-19 ended July 22, 2021) as the health unit focuses on targeted vaccination programs.

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After several years as head of the emergency and protection department and despite his initial reluctance to take on an expanded portfolio, Di Monte realizes that it is one of the most rewarding jobs.

“You can literally affect life in this community in ways you would not believe,” he said.

There are still two heavy cases to get through the council before Di Monte leaves City Hall. His department proposes a municipal licensing system for towing and is in recent weeks developing the city’s first community plan for safety and well-being.

Di Monte said he will miss working with the inspiring municipal staff, who are in public service for the right reason, to help the residents.

“People do not understand how much local government affects their lives every day compared to other levels of government,” Di Monte said.

He is ending his career as a senior bureaucrat at Ottawa City Hall, but he still considers himself a paramedic.

“I have no problem admitting it. That’s what I’m deep down. It’s something I’ve always loved, ”he said,“ helping people. ”

jwilling@postmedia.com

twitter.com/JonathanWilling

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