Intern Olivia McMahon discovered her love for the north after experiencing other places.

Municipal intern made her mark

Intern Olivia McMahon worked for the District of Fort St. James since June of 2013 and will be done her internship in April of this year.

Where has the time gone?

Olivia McMahon has been at the District of Fort St. James since June of 2013, working as an intern through a program funded by Northern Development Initiative Trust (NDIT).

McMahon will be done her internship in April, but the young woman has made an impact in the short time she’s been in Fort St. James.

“She brings an enthusiastic, fresh, youthful approach to what otherwise could be really heavy material,” said her coworker Mel Chesnutt, the District of Fort St. James’ event coordinator.

The heavy material Chesnutt is referring to are things like the Municipal Alcohol Policy McMahon helped develop from start to finish, consulting stakeholders and learning as she went.

Chesnutt said McMahon is great at recruiting community support and building rapport with community partners.

Chesnutt said McMahon is dedicated to her work and maintains a friendly outlook.

“She’s just been super great to work with,” she said of her coworker.

The opportunity to hire McMahon came about thanks to the NDIT internship program, which the District of Fort St. James applied to.

“I really value the Northern Development intern program,” said Emily Colombo, economic development officer for the district and McMahon’s supervisor. “I think the quality of intern they provided us with is very high.”

Colombo praised McMahon’s research skills and said she was a great help with Colombo’s work on the different environment assessment working groups, the housing research the district has been doing and the municipal alcohol policy.

“She’s got a real spark and flair for community development work,” said Colombo.

The 26-year-old graduate of UNBC is originally from Prince George, so being in Fort St. James kept her close to home, something she had not originally planned on.

When she began her undergraduate degree in Political Science and International Studies, she was not thinking she would stay in the north, as she said she did not necessarily feel any great allegiance to the area.

However, McMahon went to Peru on an internship with the Canadian Co-op Association working on economic diversification in the Andes.

She stayed in high-altitude places and said she saw a lot of parallels between some of the challenges the locals in those places were facing with those faced by people in northern communities back at home in Canada.

The intercultural differences between urban and rural residents and geographic challenges the Peruvians were dealing with were well known to McMahon.

She said what she saw opened her up to the idea she knew more about the north than someone who wasn’t from there, and the north offered a lot of opportunities other places couldn’t.

“After getting out and trying other things, I realized the best things were back at home,” said McMahon.

So she decided to take hold of this realization and nurture it and keep focussing on community development work.

Since starting the job in June, she helped with a number of initiatives, including the night market to help promote local businesses and worked on a communication plan for the District of Fort St. James.

She also learned a lot by helping Colombo with the environmental assessment groups.

“With the amount of pipeline projects going through this community I’ve become really interested in environmental assessment process,” she said. This may help direct her future plans to obtain a master’s degree in public administration, focussing on community development or environmental management, but before she does she would like some more work experience.

While her time is coming to a close, she said she really likes the summers here in Fort St. James – the beaches and the barbecues – and how supportive the community is.

Colombo also said the District of Fort St. James will be applying for another intern through NDIT and this year communities in the region may have to share an intern instead of each receiving their own.

Interviews for the position will begin this week.


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