Running the team who runs in the background

Adela Talbot // Western News

Carmen Bertone, Executive Director, Facilities Operations, is at the helm of Western’s trade shops, carpenters, plumbers, locksmiths, painters, electricians, varied mechanics, steam fitters, gas fitters, refrigeration mechanics, a client services maintenance group, a planning group, grounds staff and the power plant.

Carmen Bertone runs the team who runs the university. In the background, that is.

“A lot of the things we do, you don’t see. You see the buildings, you walk in, you take for granted that it might be a comfortable temperature. But there’s a lot of things that go into that behind the scenes,” said Bertone, who for nearly a year has been in the role of Executive Director, Facilities Operations.

Under Bertone’s purview, in his new role, are all of Western’s trade shops, carpenters, plumbers, locksmiths, painters, electricians, varied mechanics, steam fitters, gas fitters, refrigeration mechanics, a client services maintenance group, a planning group, grounds staff and the power plant.

Collectively, his team looks after everything from grass and gardens, asphalt maintence, snow removal, heating and cooling, to ensuring the day-to-day runs smoothly for students, staff, faculty and researchers, allowing them to do what they do best in an academic environment, in more than 90 buildings on campus, Western Research Parks, including the Advanced Manufacturing Park.

“I was very happy to come here a couple years ago. It’s a great, professional, friendly environment with good work-life balance. People here are kind and good to deal with, and all of the employees are very engaged. They care about the Western community; they have pride in ownership, and I’m very impressed by that,” Bertone said of his team.

Roughly two years ago, Bertone came to Western, starting out in Facilities Management as a shop manager. In roughly a year, he was promoted into his current role – something of a departure from the early stages of his career.

Growing up in Niagara Falls, Bertone’s father worked in the automotive industry at General Motors in St. Catharines, Ont. He remembers always having an interest in the automotive and engineering profession. So, it made sense for him, after he graduated from high school, to attend Kettering University (formerly the General Motors Institute), where on a scholarship he completed mechanical and electrical engineering degrees, while also working over five years there for General Motors in Oshawa, Ont. After graduation, Ford in St. Thomas, Ont., called his name and gave him an offer of employment he just couldn’t refuse, Bertone said.

“I worked there for 18 years. At the end of my career, I was the area manager of body paint and the engineering department for the plant. As we transitioned and downsized, a lot of the positions were amalgamated, and that meant a lot of work,” he noted.

“The automotive industry was very much by the minute; we built cars at 65 an hour – in less than a minute, a car was coming off the line. It’s very high pressure, very disciplined approach – high stress. If the line went down for a minute, it’s at a significant cost. Here, it’s very busy, but it’s a different kind of stress.”

While working at Ford, Bertone completed his master’s degree in Engineering at Western part-time. He returned to campus full-time after the plant closed, having also worked as the manager of facilities in the region of Niagara, and a plant manager at an automotive supply plant in Tillsonburg, Ont.

“I love the people here. I’ve never worked with such a group of tradespeople who care so much about providing good service to the community. Every day’s a good day here,” Bertone said of his current role.

“I’m trying to drive improvement, metrics and key performance indicators – and share everything with all the staff, so they can feel part of it and have that pride in ownership.”