ROLE: Document Conveyance Coordinator
HAILS FROM: British Columbia
DOWN TIME: Hunting, fishing, camping
What does a typical day look like for you?
Every day’s a little bit different, which is kind of fun. You come in, you check your email, and kind of get a feel for anything that needs immediate attention, which in the municipal world, sometimes it does. Sometimes you kind of go by your list.
Some days I have Council meetings when I’m sitting, talking to Council, giving reports. Some days you’re talking to field guys, figuring out what’s going on in their world, where they need help with their projects. Sometimes you’re fielding resident concerns or answering their questions about what’s going on in the MD. So it’s always a little bit different, and it’s almost always fun.
I started as an assistant, and I was very fortunate to have directors and managers who took me under their wing, showed me the ropes and helped me work my way up.
Have you always lived in the region?
No, I haven’t actually. I was born in BC, but I moved here in 2007, planned to stay for six months to save money for school, for a summer job, and have been here ever since.
How long have you worked for the MD?
I’ve been here for about seven and a half years.
Did you go to school for your role here at the MD, or did you grow into it?
It was a bit of both. I went to school for business administration, but not specifically anything municipal. It takes a special kind of person to work in the municipal world, I truly believe. You tend to either love it or you hate it, and I really love it. You get to meet all kinds of people from all walks of life. You get to do things and experience things that you wouldn’t normally. You have a whole gamut of responsibilities on your plate, and this tends to be a lot of fun.
I was incredibly lucky that I had people that were willing to kind of teach me up. When I started I was an assistant. I was very lucky that directors and managers kind of took me under their wing and showed me the ropes and helped me work my way up.
Are you kind of built now when you see a person who’s coming in to the MD to take on that same sort of mentorship type role?
Yeah, I love to talk to people who want to learn how to do something. It’s great when you see people get excited about something and want to go above and beyond to learn more. It’s always nice to have the extra hands, the extra help, and plus you got to pay it fully.
I imagine you wear a lot of hats at the MD. What’s that like?
I think it is an important thing with the MD. We’re on the smaller side as municipalities go, so it’s worth mentioning that you get to wear a lot of different hats. We can’t have a staff of 200 people like they would in, say, Red Deer County. You know everybody’s name that works here, and you cover for one another if, for example, someone’s having something not so great happening in their life. We will step in and help each other out. So it’s an important part of our corporate culture, and it’s a real benefit of working at the MD.
Do you find that’s very common with your colleagues in that it’s not just the relationships you have professionally, but it really spills into the community?
Yes, it does. The Town of Slave Lake is the hub for our MD, and it’s only 5,000 people. So you see your coworkers at your kids’ hockey or soccer games. You see the contractor that you’re working with on the old Smith Highway is at the swim meet with your kids or parent teacher interviews. It’s a smaller MD, with small towns and hamlets within it, and you all kind of get to know each other on a deeper level, I guess.
Have you worked in any other municipal settings?
No, not at all…other than a yearlong term for a Government of Alberta pilot program called the Rural Alberta Business Centre.
Can you tell me a bit more about what your job is about, and I know yours is a very sort of broad position now, isn’t it? Because you’re just sort of creating it, like you came into a blank canvas with it.
My position is newly created. It’s still taking shape, but I work with asset management. We are trying to implement more of a purposeful program in the MD, so we are just in the process of finalizing our policy and procedure. Then we’ll be getting our software up and running, training all the new staff, and figuring out how all those pieces are going to work together. Asset management can encompass everything from buying and maintaining equipment to monitoring people and how they use that equipment, and determining how these assets and resources can be used more efficiently. I also deal with grant research and reporting, and I’m working with project managers through their procurement process, so I deal with tender packages, RFPs, the bid process that goes along with that; and then I oversee the process all the way through to construction. Here I make sure that the permits are in place, and just basically ensure the bouncing ball goes in the direction it’s supposed to.
As workplaces go, how would you rank the MD?
I think it’s pretty high up there. I really enjoy the people that I work with. I enjoy the camaraderie. Everybody’s pretty tight. Everybody kind of likes each other. You don’t get a tonne of gossip, and I like that you can go and talk to anybody, and you can be out in the field. You can talk to a grader operator, you can talk to a utilities guy. There’s all different aspects to it, which I really enjoy. But yeah, everybody, like I said, we see each other at the hockey game. We take our lunch breaks together…coffee breaks, that kind of thing. We all know how old everyone’s kids are. I don’t think I’ve ever asked somebody for help and not gotten it. The MD is definitely a good place to work.
So when you’re not working, what are the sorts of things that you’re doing?
Our family is big into the outdoors, so we do a lot of hunting, fishing, and camping. We do a little bit of subsistence farming, so we have some livestock. Last year we had a cow, we’ve done pigs, we’ve done chickens. We have a big garden, that kind of thing. We go quadding, snowmobiling, that kind of stuff. We’re definitely outside people.
Do you find that the majority of your colleagues are local, or do you find that they’re coming in from other areas?
I would say we’re about a 50/50 split. We have people who went to high school here, and then we have folks who were born in Norway, India, and the Congo. We have a fairly big Filipino community. We’re seeing more and more new community members from BC and Ontario. Our region has always had a healthy population that’s imported from elsewhere.
How would you describe the dynamic with the MD management team?
I think we’re all pretty accessible. Everyone seems to have an open-door policy. Door’s open, come on in. Like I said, I’ve never asked for help and never received it. Our Chief Administrative Officer is just great, which is critical. You knock on the door, even though he always has a million things to do, he’ll never ever say, no, it’s not a good time. I also think everybody’s pretty fair. Everybody’s understanding. As long as you’re working and you’re getting your stuff off your list, they let you figure out your own flow; your own way to handle it. Micromanagement is rare here.
Do you feel that there’s further room for you to grow your career at the MD? You’re just at the beginning stages of writing it?
I feel like there is. Me personally: I’ve had people who have taken me under their wing, mentored me and helped me get as far as I am today. I hope to see this trend continue.
What would you say to someone at your level who might be considering a change? What kind of guidance would you give them?
You never really know what’s in store for you until you try something. If you would’ve asked me 16 years ago if I’d still be living in Slave Lake in 2023, I would’ve said you’re crazy; there’s no way. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. It can be pretty cool how life turns out.
Name one of the best things about working at the MD.
The variety. There’s a whole giant world full of different people from all walks of life, and we kind of get a good slice of all of ’em. No two days are the same. You get some really great stories. Some of them are more humorous than others, but it’s never boring. It’s a great feeling to get to help shape your community; where you play an active role in making where you live a better place. A lot of people don’t have that power. They just complain that they hate it, whereas we’re in a position where we may hate something, but we have the power to fix it or I can make it better. One day, hopefully I’ll be driving across the new Smith Bridge and I can say, ‘I helped make this happen.’ My other favourite thing about living here is that if you get in a car or jump on a quad and drive for five minutes, you’ll be in a spot where you can’t hear any traffic or see any people. It’s just quiet and you’re in nature and you get to see the absolute best that mother nature can put on. My husband and I were talking about this the other night, the stuff that our kids get to see that other kids don’t is just mind-blowing. We have bald eagles that nest across the river from our house. Right now, there’s a mom and two baby fawns that come through our yard every night. They’re so cute. So yeah, that’s a completely different world for your kids than what your friends outside of the area would have.