Working and providing services for you - the residents of Thunder Bay. 

As we continue to face the unprecedented COVID-19 situation, City of Thunder Bay employees are working on the front lines and behind the scenes trying to navigate the ever-changing work environment to ensure that essential City services continue to operate.

It has been a challenging time for many to learn and implement new safety precautions, navigate new work environments, all while managing family and personal needs, including mental health.

It has been a difficult time for everyone. It is important to recognize and highlight the great work City employees are doing and to let them know they are appreciated.


Feature employee spotlight: Brandon Smith

Brandon Smith sitting at his desk

Before becoming a Fire Prevention Officer with the City one year ago, Brandon Smith proved himself as a first responder. He worked extensively on the frontlines, spending four years as a firefighter in the field, and before that, 12 years at Superior North Emergency Medical Service (SNEMS) as a paramedic.

As a Fire Prevention Officer, Brandon focuses on public education and fire prevention, as well as doing regular building inspections of residential and commercial buildings. Safety is the number one priority, and it might surprise some to know that Brandon and his colleagues will offer public education opportunities upon request. It’s not unheard of for him to organize demonstrations, real or simulated, on how to use a fire extinguisher, for example.

Much of the public outreach Brandon does happens in the schools, but with the COVID-19 pandemic, some of this programming needed to be adjusted. Fire drills are still very important and continue to run, but the firefighters on the scene will often forgo entering the building to minimize potential risk to students.

“The pandemic saw the requirements of my job change pretty drastically,” said Brandon. “In February, we were starting to prepare for the inevitable, and when COVID-19 did hit Thunder Bay, we implemented our Incident Management System. I was appointed to the position of Liaison for that group, and I also became a member of the Planning section. All of this required a lot of work—from March to April, I was the busiest I’d ever been since becoming a Fire Prevention Officer.”

Brandon attributes the excellent work of his colleagues in these unprecedented circumstances to their professionalism and resilience. He notes they have had to adapt to new ways of operating in terms of screening and personal protective equipment, which adds another layer of challenges to some of the more difficult calls.

“My hats off to all our firefighters and staff, especially to those working on the frontlines, including paramedics and police. We’ve all had to work together, and I feel like everyone has stepped up to show our commitment to this city and the people we serve.”

 

Thanks to Shane Muir and Community Testing Team

Brandon also wishes to acknowledge Shane Muir and his team at SNEMS for their amazing work handling an immense volume of COVID-19 tests to help keep our city safe.

 




Thank you City of Thunder Bay employees

In recognition of the dedicated work by all City of Thunder Bay employees during the pandemic, City Council and senior management would like to say thank you. Please watch this video message:

Watch: Dear City Employees - Thank you
City Employees Continue to Serve Residents During COVID-19

 

Past employee spotlights

Andrew Leschuk, Swim Instructor and Lifeguard

What is your official job title?

Swim Instructor and Lifeguard at Churchill Pool

 

How long have you been employed at the City of Thunder Bay?

Just over two years.

 

What do you like most about your job?

I enjoy keeping people safe as they enjoy the use of the facility. Being an avid swimmer myself, I appreciate having a city pool available, and I know that as a lifeguard, I am helping to provide the best experience possible. My job provides me with great opportunities and a wonderful work atmosphere. I am working hard to hopefully become a headguard in the future.

 

What is it like being a Lifeguard during this time?

I know that all the lifeguards at Churchill Pool are working hard to accommodate everyone that wants to use the facility. We have consistent protocols in place for booking swim times, enforcing rules, disinfecting points of contact, and ensuring that patrons are entering and exiting the facility at the correct time. I have certainly answered many phone calls during this time, which highlights the community demand for the facility.

 

Are there any special protocols in place to keep you safe on the job?

Yes! A plexiglass screen has been installed on the front desk of Churchill Pool to act as a barrier between the staff and patrons. We’ve also been provided with personal reusable masks, as well as guard chairs on the pool deck to distance ourselves from patrons. Booking swim times is another new protocol to keep everyone safe. People can book one-hour time slots and are allowed in only 10-15 minutes before their swim time to ensure that the new capacity is always followed.

 

Are you noticing an increase in amount of work?

I have noticed an increase in the amount of work when in the office, specifically answering the phone and booking swim times, as well as answering questions about the new protocols.

 

What should residents do to help keep you and your colleagues safe?

Everyone is asked to wear masks in the lobby area and change rooms, and a hand sanitizing station has been set up at the door for public use. Remembering to give the lifeguards space while on the pool deck, as well as refraining from placing personal items on the lifeguard chairs, can also help keep myself and colleagues safe.

 

 

Is there any silver lining to working during this difficult time?

Many people have expressed their excitement of having a pool reopen. Having been at Churchill Pool right from the beginning of the reopening in July, I have seen many people come in for aquatic fitness and fun. It’s been nice to see my coworkers again after the abrupt closure in March.

 

Have you witnessed or heard of anything inspiring while working out in the community during this time?

I have seen the swim clubs start practicing again, and patrons get back into swimming routines. It highlights how we can work together as a community to create a new normal at Churchill Pool.

 

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Please have patience with the staff at Churchill Pool while everyone gets used to the new normal. You can call the pool or check the website if you have any questions about current pool operations.

 

Cindy Woodbeck, Clerk Dispatcher

What is your official job title?

Clerk Dispatcher with Infrastructure and Operations

How long have you been employed at the City of Thunder Bay?

22 years

What do you like most about your job?

I really enjoy the social interaction, and I love customer service.

What is it like being a Clerk-Dispatcher during this time?

It’s a 50-50 situation. There can be difficult questions, but we are the information highway. It is great to be in a position to help residents. With the COVID-19 situation continuing, at times people are becoming frustrated with the uneasy situation overall. As a result, sometimes we have to handle people’s emotions as well as their questions.

Are there any special protocols in place to keep you safe on the job?

Definitely. The City has been working hard to keep things safe for the employees in our department, from safety markings on the floors and entranceways, to masks, hand sanitizers, and handwashing protocols. In our workplace, everyone is taking care of everyone. There are new challenges every day, but the City has been very diligent and we know they care.

Are you noticing an increase in the amount of work?

Yes, and of course, it’s not a surprise. There are so many new protocols and ways of dealing with things. In many situations, there may be three steps instead of one. Calls to the City Dispatchers have naturally increased, as residents have many questions.

Is there any silver lining to working during this difficult time?

Because we’re busier with an increased number of calls, my day goes by very fast! And it feels good being able to help.

Have you witnessed or heard of anything inspiring while working in the community during this time?

People are very glad that someone—a human being, answers their call. It’s very touching how we are appreciated just for being here at this time.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Humour is the best medicine. If you can laugh, and help people see the lighter side, it alleviates tension. Although many calls involve serious issues and questions, lightheartedness is very valuable. And one more thing to add:  there are no stupid questions!

 Steve Kondreska, Traffic Tech I

What is your official job title?

Traffic Tech I within the Traffic Control & Street Lighting section of Roads 

 

How long have you been employed at the City of Thunder Bay?

Just under 15 years

 

What do you like most about your job?

The fact that most of the things I do at work benefit the public. It’s very gratifying to be doing something that helps the public, especially with safety.

 

What is it like being a Traffic Tech I during this time?

It’s been very strange! At first, during COVID, it felt like we were the only people outside – eerie!

 

Are there any special protocols in place to keep you safe on the job?

Yes, many. Our department has done a good job with putting safety measures in place, such as limiting who can access buildings – right now we can’t have contractors coming through the doors. Also, we usually have just one person per vehicle; if more must be in the vehicle, masks are worn. The City has done a great job making sure we had all the safety equipment we need, right from the start.  

 

Are you noticing an increase in the amount of work?

Absolutely, yes. Essential workers have had more work to do, and now there is additional catch-up on tasks that had to be delayed.

 

Is there any silver lining to working during this difficult time?

Yes - I didn’t have time to sit around at home worrying! Going to your familiar job every day – at least it’s one normal thing.

 

Have you witnessed or heard of anything inspiring while working out in the community during this time?

People who have been staying home are often out in their yards or properties, and they notice more of what we do.  People seem to appreciate it more.

 

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I’d just like to reiterate that in our department they did everything they could to look after our well-being, right from the beginning.

 April Johnson - Archivist Assistant
 

What is your official job title? April Johnson

Archivist Assistant at the Harry Kirk Archives & Records Centre

How long have you been employed at the City of Thunder Bay?

20 years

What do you like most about your job?

I participate in the corporate records management program and the operation of the City Archives and enjoy both components equally. They are an important part of the CTB and knowing that I play a role in preserving the City’s corporate history is awesome. Also working with such a great Archives team, makes it even more enjoyable.

What is it like being an Archivist Assistant during this time?

Working from home has created some issues as part of my job can only be done in the building and not from home, so those projects are on hold. With the office being closed and no courier service, it has been a challenge in getting records to the divisions. In addition some services such as record box transfers are not being accepted until we re-open. This will create a backlog for us and for departments.  We are fortunate that people are very understanding and patient with our new schedule. Sanitizing and social distancing are now always a priority when doing my job.

Are there any special protocols in place to keep you safe on the job?

The City Archives & Records Centre has been closed to the public since late March. Our staff are working from home and limiting the number of visits we make to our building. We also notify each other when entering and leaving the building; if it happens we overlap our visit, we social distance and wear masks. Sanitizing is routine when we enter the office area. 

Are you noticing an increase in amount of work?

When the office first closed to the public and we began working from home, my co-worker was redeployed which meant I would be taking on a portion of his work as well, so it was very busy. I monitor the Archive e-mail accounts and was designated the person to go into the office for all record requests, retrievals, scheduled pick-up of records and look after public inquiries. My co-worker has recently returned to his position and work remains steady.

Is there any silver lining to working during this difficult time?

It has been amazing to see how our City workers from all divisions have come together so we can continue quality service for the community.

Have you witnessed or heard of anything inspiring while working out in the community during this time?

There have been many inspiring stories in our community that have proven “we are in this together”. For example a local business donated 200 face masks to evacuees, and so many homes having signage on their windows with encouraging messages and thanking the community.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I would like to give a shout out to my manager who has done an outstanding job on checking in on his staff to make sure everything was O.K. while working from home. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic he has always kept us informed and sends emails to keep in touch during these difficult times. Thanks Matt!

Janelle Darosa - Property Agent
 

Janelle Darosa is a Property Agent with Realty Services Division at the City of Thunder Bay.

 

How long have you been employed at the City of Thunder Bay?

I’ve been with the City for about a year.

 

What do you like most about your job?

I love the work environment that I share with friendly and professional colleagues. I also have a new level of appreciation of how public processes work. It can be very rewarding to see changes in the community that I was able to contribute to.

 

What is it like being a Property Agent during this time?

I’m currently working from home and have been for five months. It’s been a bit of an adjustment, but the work hasn’t changed so it can be done effectively.

 

Are there any special protocols in place to keep you safe on the job?

We follow standard protocol with regular Safety Talks and when we have in-person meetings, we ensure we are physically distancing, sanitizing and wearing masks indoors.

 

Are you noticing an increase in amount of work?

The amount of work started at a standard rate but once the reopening plans began, there was definitely an increase. We also worked on Covid-related tasks such as the patio project to assist restaurants and retailers with creative ways to establish outdoor patios during the pandemic. We also worked on rent relief programming for our commercial tenants. The City went out of its way to help businesses that were affected by the pandemic.

 

Is there any silver lining to working during this difficult time?

Yes. As much as these times are difficult, people are resilient and proving that they can adapt to changing environments and face the unknown together.

 

Have you witnessed or heard of anything inspiring while working out in the community during this time?

I’ve witnessed many selfless acts. It’s been so nice to see many people stepping up to volunteer and provide essential work on the frontlines, as well as support local businesses during these times.  

 

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Thank you to all our frontline workers. I’m glad to be from a community where everyone supports each other.

 

 Suzanne Sabaz - Support Services Assistant

Suzanne Sabaz is a Support Services Assistant with Thunder Bay 55+ Centre, Recreation & Culture Division. She has been employed at the City for 29 years.  

 

What do you like most about your job?

I love connecting with older adults in the City. I’ve worked with seniors since I was in high school. Over the years, I’ve volunteered and worked with many different local agencies and seniors' groups in Thunder Bay. I’ve also completed a post-secondary gerontology program. I’ve always gravitated towards working with seniors.

 

What is it like being a Support Services Assistant during this time?

Our programs for seniors have continued mostly over the phone. Our in-person Friendly Visiting and Walk-A-Bit programs have been put on hold for now. Most of these volunteers have transferred to our Telephone Assurance Program, in which our volunteers call our senior clients for a friendly chat and a check-in, usually weekly. If a volunteer suspects our client is in need of community services they are not currently accessing, we make those referrals for them. We are lucky to have a lot of really great new volunteers in this program since the start of the pandemic.

 

Are there any special protocols in place to keep you safe on the job?

Right now I am able to work from home and I feel very fortunate to be able to do so. I’ve been very safe working in that respect.

 

Are you noticing an increase in amount of work?

We are with the Telephone Assurance Program for seniors in the community. We normally have 40 to 50 referrals a year, and over the last few months we’ve had over 100 referrals. This tells us seniors are more disconnected and lonesome in COVID-19 circumstances. Their family and friends cannot be with them; they’re missing that interaction. This program has almost tripled in size since the start of the pandemic. This also shows how much people need human interaction.

 

Is there any silver lining to working during this difficult time?

It’s not an easy time for seniors in the community, or anyone at any age. The silver lining I see is that even though our volunteers are going through a hard time themselves, they are still taking the time to help others. That is really inspiring.

 

Have you witnessed or heard of anything inspiring while working out in the community during this time?

I see a lot of people in the Thunder Bay community that are willing to get out and help people who are struggling. Whether it’s through food banks, food box programs, or in less formal ways. For example, in my neighbourhood, I see people regularly checking in on their neighbours to see if they’re ok and being taken care of. It is really heartwarming.

 

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I’m very proud of the way Thunder Bay has handled COVID 19, also with keeping people informed and keeping people’s spirits up. I think this shows in our low numbers.

 

 Tammy Mastalerz - Supervisor

Tammy Mastalerz is the Supervisor, Supply Management (Inventory & Courier) and she has been with the City for a year.

 

What do you like most about your job?

I am fortunate to be part of a really great team who has worked so hard these last few months. There is always something keeping me on my toes. It is very rewarding to be providing support to frontline staff. 

What is it like being the Supervisor, Supply Management during this time?

It is very busy, with heavy focus on trying to source, store, and distribute Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). At the beginning, it was very hectic as none of the equipment we needed could be found anywhere. Literally all of us were on the phone trying to locate PPE. Now, hand sanitizer is bought in bulk. It comes in liquid form, in 20-litre pails and needs to be decanted, meaning we had to source spray bottles which there wasn’t a great supply of locally. There is also a need for us to make PPE kits for staff. For example, Lifeguards are issued bags with a face shield, mask, gown, and sanitizer. 

Are there any special protocols in place to keep you safe on the job? Mainly social distancing, handwashing, sanitizing, and regular cleaning of touch surfaces like counters and doorknobs. The counters at our City Stores also have Plexiglas barriers. When accepting deliveries, we screen, and continue with physical distancing and proper handwashing after deliveries. Suppliers are not requiring signatures on deliveries, so we don’t have to handle paperwork. We also do more regular cleaning of our courier vehicles. 

Are you noticing an increase in amount of work?

Absolutely. In addition to the regular ongoing procurement needs across City departments, there is more work associated with the pandemic. Suppliers have to be contacted regularly to check availability, and we are working directly with City departments to source the PPE that they need. The items we are sourcing aren’t normally stocked, and we are ordering in huge volumes. 

What should people do to help keep you and your colleagues safe? With any deliveries to us, or from our couriers, please maintain physical distancing. The same is true of City staff coming to pickup PPE. And we appreciate as much notice as possible for PPE requirements. 

Is there any silver lining to working during this difficult time?

The pandemic has definitely shown that Thunder Bay is a resilient community, and we have pulled together to help each other out. We have demonstrated our ability to help flatten the curve, particularly when you look at the numbers for Thunder Bay. 

Have you witnessed or heard of anything inspiring while working out in the community during this time? Seeing everyone working together is inspiring. When the pandemic first hit, we were receiving donations of gloves, masks, and other PPE from dentist offices, and places like tbaytel and Resolute. It is fantastic to see support for our frontline workers. It is inspiring when reading the news to see that this is still happening. Free masks and sanitizers are being donated from big business to small business. 

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Thank you to all the frontline workers, including those behind the scenes such as mechanics, city courier, and storekeepers. 

 Jordyn Howie - Program Coordinator

Jordyn is a Program Coordinator for the Recreation & Culture Division’s Children & Youth programs and has worked at the City for eight years.

 

What do you like most about your job?

I love my job because I get to meet new people who share the same passions as me, and I have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of young people. 

What is it like being a Program Coordinator during this time?

Being a Program Coordinator during this time has been different as there are several new changes and accommodations that we’ve had to make to the program in order for it to be safe for children and staff. However, my team and I have worked together to make this summer happen and are happy we get to provide programming for children who have been away from their normal routine for so long. 

Are there any special protocols in place to keep you safe on the job?

There are several protocols in place to keep us safe on the job. We have smaller groups, we practice social distancing, we have advanced cleaning protocols, we have modified activities to avoid coming into close contact with one another, and we have additional Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). 

Are you noticing an increase or change in amount of work?

Yes, there has been an increase as we need to implement and train staff members on new health and safety policies. We also need to be more creative in planning activities to ensure they are following these new policies. 

Is there any silver lining to working during this difficult time?

We are bringing back some normalcy to children’s lives and providing them with the opportunity to play with others again. 

Have you witnessed or heard of anything inspiring while working out in the community during this time?

I’ve seen program staff rise to the challenge of adapting to these new changes and finding a way to make programming enjoyable for the children while maintaining safety as a top priority. 

 Karen Nadeau - Leadhand/Curator

 

Karen Nadeau is a Leadhand/Curator – Conservatory, Parks & Open Spaces Section since 1988.