Before she took the job, Emily Colombo, flew across the country to see if she thought she could live in the Fort.
The town managed to muster up a great first impression, thanks at least in part to the recent downtown revitalization, because she took the job.
“I was actually really impressed by the friendliness of the people and the attractiveness of the downtown area as well,” she said.
And the positive vibe has not faded either, with Colombo still enthusiastic after starting the job on May 18.
“I think it’s a great community with a lot of passion and a lot of drive to get things done,” she said. “I think they have a huge amount of vision in terms of where they want to go and I’m really excited to help them along in that process.”
But it isn’t only the town which has her liking her job so far, Colombo is also very impressed with the district staff and council.
“I think they’re really well-informed and they’re passionate about their roles,” she explains. “I have a great mentor in Kevin (Crook), he’s really taking a lot of time and patience to take me under his wing and show me the ropes.”
So far, she is simply trying to get a sense of what is going on in the community and meet people working on different projects within it.
Some of these projects have already impressed her, including the Mining and Sustainable Communities initiative examining how to set a baseline and create a plan to provide more sustainable benefits from the mine.
“I think that’s such an excellent initiative because it really looks at ensuring that the quality of life standards that are set through the mine are continued even after the mine, “ said Colombo. While resource extraction isn’t entirely sustainable, she applauds the groups efforts to create a sustainability plan to get more long-term benefits from the industry activity in the area.
She is also really excited about what she sees Greening Up Fort St. James (GUF) doing.
“I think it’s really phenomenal that just this little outside nonprofit organization is taking such huge leaps and measures to help the community to reach their carbon emission targets.”
The Historic Park is another part of the community she is excited about, and sees it as a cultural hub for the Fort.
“It does a lot more for the community beyond just straight-up tourism,” she said. Colombo has already began planting a plot in the community garden within the Historic Park.
But beyond her enthusiasm for the area so far, she is also looking for input from community-members, and does not plan on coming in as an outsider and trying to tell locals what they need to do, quite the opposite.
“I’m looking to the community to let me know what their needs are, and then just trying to see what I can do to help.”
It is the influence of policy-makers, whether noticed or not, which got Colombo interested in working within municipal administration. She began understanding how the layers of both administration and policy on a municipal level influence people’s daily lives in ways they might not even realize.
For one thing, policy makers can influence the development of rental accommodations, something Colombo is learning about first-hand as she still searches for a permanent place to live.
The challenges she is facing in finding a place are in turn informing her about the job as well.
“If people can’t live here then they can’t be here and that’s not good for the economy.”
Colombo found the job on a website and applied from Sault St. Marie, Ontario, where she had done work with the non-profit sector after completing her Certificate in Community and Social Development from Algoma University in June of 2010.
But the job market in Ontario was not looking very promising, and she said the male-dominated workforce in Sault St. Marie was hard to break into.
“I was lucky to be able to find this one, and applied for it,” she said.
And now that she’s here, she is also hoping to spend time pursuing some of her other interests, which include the arts, outdoor recreation, biking, gardening, cross-country skiing and fishing.
While the position was vacated only recently by Deb Hadwen, who was a much-loved member of the community, and she does feel she has big shoes to fill, Colombo seems keen.
“I’m all in and I’m going to give it my all,” she said.