Read our past Employee Spotlights to hear from City employees about their jobs. Employee Spotlights began during the COVID-19 pandemic, to recognize challenges and rewards to City staff during that time. The popular monthly Employee Spotlight feature continues, and highlights City workers and their jobs. Read the current featured employee spotlight

Employee Spotlights

John Fisher - Equipment Operator III

John Fisher - City of Thunder BayJohn Fisher is an Equipment Operator III on the Roads South team for the City of Thunder Bay. Before working for Roads, he worked from 2006-2013 in Solid Waste & Recycling. Over the years John developed his skills as a heavy equipment operator on the job, and today can run an array of machines. “Now I’m able to pretty well run everything we have, from loaders, graders and backhoes, to street sweepers and dump trucks,” said John.

John’s duties vary, depending on the season, or even the day. In the winter, his job is usually focused on snow removal. If it has recently snowed, John is out in a loader-plow clearing roads overnight while many of us are in our cozy beds. During the days, he works with other roads clearing crews to move snow and make it easier for drivers and pedestrians to get around.

“In the winter, we are steadily dealing with snow – either the sanders are out or we are using equipment to move snow and make more room for future weather,” explained John. “In the summer I’m usually grading gravel roads in the rural part of Thunder Bay. But I could also be doing a culvert job with a backhoe or driving a dump truck hauling gravel or debris, or street sweeping with the big sweepers.”

When asked about the challenges he and his coworkers face that might surprise people, John explained that they sometimes deal with drivers who cut them off or don’t make room for the machines. “It gets frustrating sometimes, because we are just trying to do our jobs.” Most northerners are familiar with the feeling of dread that comes with seeing a plow about to spread a new windrow across the end of their driveway. “Sometimes people will come right out beside the machine and stop us. On the other hand some people bring out gifts, a box of chocolates, a Tim’s card or a basket of buns or cookies they just made because they are so grateful for what we are doing.”

Equipment operators such as John usually work in teams. “When the graders go out to plow the main routes, they’re teamed up, usually two per run, but I’m usually separate in the loader-plow. When we do snow removal in back lanes, I’m in a loader, other operators are in trucks, and another one watches traffic.”

With over 16 years with the City, John is now a veteran employee and often finds himself looked to by newer staff to answer questions and provide experience, knowledge and advice. “It’s been really impactful for me, that as I get older, other operators are coming to me and I can share the experience I have.” 

Monika Tomar - Learning & Development Consultant

City of Thunder Bay - Monika TomarMonika Tomar has a very dynamic job – but her days begin with a relatively simple routine. “My typical work day starts with checking the corporate training registration database, posting and organizing new learning sessions, and supporting e-learning logistics and requirements.”

Monika, the City’s new Learning & Development Consultant, started work in this position in July of this year. She had previously been employed by the City as part of the Talent Acquisition team, and she has also had interesting jobs in many countries and workplace settings including manufacturing, banking and consulting. Much of her work over the past 10 years has focussed on human resources, including analytics, workforce management, and overseeing employee learning & development programs.

“My keen ability to connect with others, building strong and lasting relationships, has been paramount to my success throughout my career,” said Monika. “My experiences and education all together have prepared me for what I am doing today.”

There is a lot more to being a Learning and Development Consultant than developing training programs and making sure employees and supervisors are aware of training opportunities. “My strong focus is to streamline the various learning processes and identify the opportunity for learning system enhancement,” said Monika.

“Apart from simply promoting corporate training opportunities, my main responsibilities include providing day-to day consultation to all levels of City staff, performing regular training audits, interacting closely with the leadership team to create training strategies for their work areas, and supporting departments to ensure all learning activities are delivered to the required standard. I also coordinate the recognition program for our annual retirees, and the long-service employees’ virtual banquet.”

“The best part of my job,” said Monika, “is working with diverse groups of employees with different personalities and talents. I am a strong believer in life-long learning. I strive to do what it takes to make things happen, to acknowledge people and help them grow. I am truly enjoying working in a team where everyone is super-supportive and takes an extra step to make you feel important.”

And for fun? “Outside of my work I love to travel and explore new places.”

Dave Flank - Plumbing and Mechanical Inspector
 

City of Thunder Bay Employee Dave FlankDave Flank started his career with the City in 2016, as the Backflow Prevention Officer. Employees in this position have the very important duty of inspecting the installation of backflow prevention devices to ensure that water delivered to the customer cannot flow back into the City’s drinking water system, potentially carrying contaminants.

“Many property owners don’t realize that backflow can happen,” said Dave. “In certain circumstances, water can flow backwards through an open valve or improperly installed fixture or appliance from a private water system – say, in a multi-residential or commercial building - into the City’s drinking water distribution system. As the Backflow Prevention Officer, I inspected commercial, industrial, institutional and multi-residential plumbing installations to ensure appropriate backflow prevention devices had been installed and backflow contamination could not occur.”

In his current position as a Plumbing and Mechanical Inspector, Dave inspects a greater range of plumbing system components. “It’s interesting to be an Inspector, as I spent the earlier years of my plumbing career installing plumbing systems - and now instead of building them, I inspect them. I’m one of three Plumbing and Mechanical Inspectors with the City. We inspect all plumbing components from the drainage and venting, to water piping, heating and fire suppression systems. We inspect plumbing in new builds and renovations, in both residential and commercial buildings. In everything but new builds, dated infrastructure can be an issue, and the plumbing has to be brought up to Code.”

By Code, Dave means Ontario’s Building Code regulations, which are frequently updated by the Province.

“All decisions are based on the Building Code,” said Dave. “One of the challenges of my job is sometimes having to convey the bad news to a homeowner or builder that changes must be made to an installation so that it will fulfill the requirements of the Code. But most people understand – especially if I explain the applicable part of the Code, and why it is important for a functional and safe plumbing system.”

“One fulfilling part of my job, actually, is seeing how people appreciate information that explains my decisions as an Inspector. Of course I understand that these necessary decisions can be associated with unexpected work and expenses, but achieving the minimum requirements of the Ontario Building Code is crucial in helping a project go forward with a safe and proper functioning plumbing and mechanical system.

Dave added, “Plumbing and Mechanical Inspectors get an inside view of projects from homes to hotels, from the start of construction to the finish. That really adds to the interest of the job.”

In his spare time, Dave indulges his love of music composition and performance. “I’ve been playing for 20 years, and I’ve found I also really like songwriting,” he said. “I play guitar and sing in a band, for the pure enjoyment of it. We play everything from campfire acoustic tunes to heavy rock and metal – even numbers from 80s ‘hair’ bands, if you remember those!”

So, if you hear music on the air – it just might be Dave. 

Krista Power - City Clerk

Krista PowerKrista Power began her career with the City of Thunder Bay as a teenager, as an employee with the Summer Playgrounds Program. It was a positive first experience working for the City. “I spent eight summers working in our beautiful parks with the kids,” said Krista. “It was awesome!”

Following University, Krista spent ten years as Events Manager at Fort William Historical Park, and then returned to working at the City in 2010 in various capacities, becoming Deputy City Clerk in 2015 and City Clerk in 2019.

“The role of a City Clerk is one of the oldest roles in all government,” explained Krista. “A City’s Council cannot have a meeting without the attendance of the Clerk to properly record and disclose their information to the public.”

Krista explained that her job is to safeguard and protect the decisions of City Council, both by accurately recording them and by authorizing By-laws passed by Council. The City Clerk also advises Council on legislation, governance and procedure, and is the City’s lead on records and privacy. And, as many citizens know, the City Clerk’s Office authorizes the purchase of marriage and lottery licences.

What is a typical day for Krista? “There is little routine in the City Clerk’s Office, which employs 21 staff,” said Krista. “Priorities can change quickly, especially if a legislative compliance issue crops up.”

On the Mondays when a Council meeting is scheduled, the job of the City Clerk is especially busy. “I routinely work 12-16 hours on a ‘Council Monday’,” said Krista. “The record was one Monday in August 2020, when I began my work day at 8:30 am and ended it after that night’s Council meeting, at almost 3:30 am, with many items deferred.”

However, a City Clerk’s days are even more dynamic at election time. In the Municipal Elections Act, the City Clerk is designated as the Returning Officer for the Municipal Election, and as such is responsible for all aspects of the election, the nomination process, certification of candidates, coordinating voting and calculating results, and certifying the results - as well as post-election work such as certifying financial statements.

“The decisions of the Returning Officer are final as it relates to the Municipal Election,” said Krista. “City Council has no authority over the process or the roll-out of the election, as this is governed by the Act.”

Asked about her favourite part of the job, Krista replied in several parts. “I have the privilege of being a part of the history of our city every time I sit to clerk a meeting of City Council, she said. “I have the opportunity to engage with the public and provide access to their elected officials via deputations or committees, or to release records to the public via the Freedom of Information process.”

“Our team in the Office of the City Clerk (including our cohort at the Harry Kirk Archives Department) are amazing, talented, bright and hard-working colleagues who are dedicated to their work, and I am grateful to work with every single one of them. Watch for our hashtags: #ClerksRule and #ArchivesareAwesome.”

 

Shaun Naroski - Relief Operator, Aquatic Operations

Shaun NaroskiShaun Naroski has a long history as an employee at the City’s swimming pools. Starting in the 1980s, Shaun worked at Churchill Pool as an Instructor/Guard. That job led to his next position in full-time pool maintenance at Volunteer Pool, which he did until 1994.

Shaun’s employment changed course at that point as he went into a career in teaching – first as a Music teacher with the Lakehead Public School Board, and then on to a job with the Ministry of Education.

Now a retired educator, Shaun has his pick of part-time jobs – and he has chosen the City’s pools once again! He now works as a Relief Operator for the City’s Aquatic Operations.

“We are responsible for the operation of the Canada Games Complex, Volunteer Pool, Churchill Pool, Heath Pool, Widnall Pool and the Marina Park Splash Pad,” Shaun said. “We also have occasional tasks at Boulevard Lake Park and Chippewa Park. The primary responsibilities involve water chemistry, pool filtration, chemical feeders, monitoring mechanical systems, and record keeping.”

The focus for the City’s Aquatic Operations staff comes down to this: keeping facilities open for public use. “Sometimes our services are required at multiple pools at the same time, and that can be a challenge,” said Shaun.

Shaun and many other staff at the City’s pools are seasoned swimmers themselves. “The Canada Games Complex is my pool of choice,” said Shaun. “The water is ideal and the facility has new starting blocks – the same kind used at international competitions. Having weight and cardio rooms in the same facility is a luxury. I bring my grandkids here all the time and they love it!”

“I was a Thunderbolt back in 1972 and still compete fifty years later. I returned from the 2022 Canadian Masters Swimming Championships in Quebec City with two silver and three bronze medals. I should also mention that my four daughters had jobs as Instructor/Guards at the Canada Games Complex once upon a time.”

It is easy to see why Shaun enjoys his work in Aquatic Operations. And, he had this to add: “I enjoy seeing all the patrons using the various aquatic facilities, whether it be learning how to swim or just having fun in the water. And knowing that I am part of a larger team that makes those opportunities possible is very satisfying.”

 

James Wilkinson - Indigenous Relations Liaison

City of Thunder Bay - James WilkinsonJames Wilkinson, Indigenous Relations Liaison, is the newest staff member in the City of Thunder Bay’s Indigenous Relations Office. He started in this role in February of this year.

James was reintroduced to his heritage in 1996 at Garden River First Nation. “It was at that time I began walking the Red Road of Native spirituality. In the process, I learned a great deal about the many struggles and difficulties Indigenous people face in Northern Ontario, including Thunder Bay.”

Over the past decade, James’s work has included helping Confederation College’s Broadcast Program to showcase Indigenous artists in the community. He also ran a talk show - Mino Bimaadiziwin (The Good Life Show) – covering Indigenous issues. Following his graduation with honours from the College in 2012, James became a facilitator for the Walk-a-Mile program, followed by working as an internal Indigenous Awareness trainer with the City – a job that continued right up to the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. He also started a project to help Indigenous people remember that despite their dark, shared history in Canada, they are still here - and that is positive. The project was called “We’re Still Here – Project Hope and Unity.”

Regarding his interview for his current position with the City, James recalled, “I commented to an Elder/Knowledge Keeper I spend time with that I answered the interview questions from the perspective of who I am as a person and the path I walk. It was the first interview where I shared part of my life’s journey.”

As Indigenous Relations Liaison, James facilitates positive relationships in the community. In his words, “This role is ground zero – for positive change, systemic shifting, building new relationships and improving existing relationships.”

Asked about the special focuses of his work, James offered three. “First, there’s the task of expanding the understanding of how communication happens within Indigenous culture. Building relationships with Indigenous people, communities and organizations is worth the time it takes - and it does take time. It’s all about honouring relationships, and not so much about urgency to get things done. The second focus is working with the community to facilitate better channels for positive change, including addressing racism in the community. I believe it is the responsibility of the Indigenous Relations Office to assist in a change of community perspective, and promote constructive avenues for change. And third, I am focussed on creating a larger footprint for the Indigenous Relations Office in our community, so that people know what kind of work we do and positive impacts we are achieving. Each member of our small team brings a valuable skill-set to the table, and we’ve taken significant steps towards establishing a more prominent and positive presence in Thunder Bay. The re-imaging of Canada Day celebrations, the Maamawe Summer Festival and Showcase are just a few things our Office is proud to have spearheaded.”

The challenges of the work also bring rewards. “The best part of my job,” James said, “is helping bring this community together in a good way and helping all of us work collectively towards healing and developing better relationships. My personal healing journey brought me here and the community embraced me – the recovery community, the education community, the Indigenous community, the business community, the arts and entertainment community and the mainstream community. Thunder Bay is now my home.”

“In its own way, my role as Indigenous Relations Liaison is my way of giving back to a community that gave to me. What more could you ask for in a career?”

Saumya Nair - Facility Attendant, Water Garden Pavilion

City of Thunder Bay - Saumya NairSaumya Nair describes herself as an extravert – and it is working for her! 

 “I came to Canada from India, where I was a Dentist, in 2018,” said Saumya. “I completed the Health Professional course at Confederation College, and when the pandemic hit, I decided to stay in Thunder Bay.”

Getting established with housing and a job in Thunder Bay was challenging - especially finding suitable work. “I had been seeking a job in a health-care setting, but I found that many such offices were stressful work environments. However, when I got the job at the Complex, everything changed. My co-workers congratulated me, supervisors were kind and accommodating, and I thought, is this a dream?”

First employed by the City as a Screener and Fitness Attendant at the Canada Games Complex during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Saumya found her work fun and fulfilling right from the start.

 “Identity crisis is the biggest source of depression, but I certainly don’t suffer from that at work. The people I work with recognize my importance and give me good feedback and support.”

Saumya had been told that as a Screener, she might have to deal with the frustration of clients entering the Canada Games Complex. “I never encountered a truly angry customer,” said Saumya.  “I started my job right after a new lockdown began, and people stopped and chatted, and even brought small treats for the staff at Christmas. It was so nice to see!”

Saumya also teaches Zumba and Bollywood fitness classes at the Complex – dance workouts that combine dynamic choreography with upbeat music from around the world. “I always absorb lots of positivity from the clients.”

 “I don’t remember a day that I’ve been grouchy or sad,” said Saumya. “In my job with the City, people welcome me, appreciate me, and want me there. I love my job!”

Having received CPR certification, Saumya now also works as a Facility Attendant at the Water Garden Pavilion. If you see her there, make sure to say hello!

Ian Spoljarich - Manager of Roads

Ian Spoljarich - City of Thunder Bay Manager of RoadsIan Spoljarich, Manager of Roads, began his career with the City in September 2018, as Supervisor of Waste Collection. In 2021 he became Supervisor of Roads South (for the southern portion of Thunder Bay), and quickly moved on to become Manager of Roads.

Asked for a description of a typical day on the job, Ian replied that no day or week is typical! Each week brings new challenges, and Ian makes sure to connect with other supervisors regularly. Often there are meetings throughout the day, including talks with City Councillors on roads issues and speaking with residents about their concerns.

Ian also makes it a priority to observe conditions on the city’s roads first-hand. If there is a pause in the meetings, he gets out to check on pavement issues and street lighting. Often, the day’s prospective schedule can change with the weather – an oncoming storm will mean preparation for wet or snowy conditions.

Getting information about the condition of the city’s roads out to the public is also a priority for Ian. “We’ve been putting more detailed information out in media releases and on social media, especially when there is a weather event that affects the roads,” said Ian. “That way, people aren’t left with questions about whether they can get around the city.”  

“It was a very busy winter for the City’s Roads employees, and an even busier spring – but our staff took it in stride. They are dedicated, and take pride in their work. Just when we saw a break in the snow, in came the spring, with melting and flooding – and staff were out again to make the roadways safe for motorists.”

Asked about the weekly Wednesday storms we experienced in March-April, Ian said, “Our staff responded well for the amount of snow we had. But every Wednesday, there would be 30-40 cm of new snow, and in between we would get small snowfalls, so there was not a lot of time to work on equipment and prepare for the next storm – we were constantly out on the roads.”

“I and our Roads staff feel that we helped people get to work and school safely - but I am hoping this is the worst winter I will ever see, and that it gets better from here!”

When Ian isn’t watching the weather for the next storm, he takes time for fun and family. “Life is busy. We have a 5-year-old son and a 3-year-old son and a new lab puppy! I love to spend my free time with family, and if I can sneak away, I enjoy a round of golf.”

Dennis Brescacin - Division Chief of Administration - Thunder Bay Fire Rescue

Dennis Brescacin of Thunder Bay Fire Rescue, and SparkyDennis Brescacin began his career with the City in 1991, when he was hired as a Firefighter by Thunder Bay Fire Rescue (TBFR).

“My first 17 years with TBFR was in our Suppression Division, and I qualified as a Captain prior to being promoted to Division Chief of Administration in 2008,” said Dennis. “I have been in that role ever since.”

Dennis’ duties are wide ranging. Aside from overseeing the maintenance and repair of TBFR’s eight fire stations and its training centre, he also procures Fire Rescue’s station and medical supplies, and personal protective equipment. He is also responsible for the portable radio equipment of both TBFR and Thunder Bay Police Service. “If a radio unit is lost or stolen,” Dennis said, “I can de-activate it instantly using a computer application.”

Dennis’s duties do not end there. Under the Ontario Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, (EMCPA), he fills the mandated role of Community Emergency Management Coordinator for the City of Thunder Bay. This role links with his work as the Chair of the City’s Emergency Management Program Committee, and as the coordinator of the Municipal Emergency Control Group (MECG).

MECG is a group comprised of members from City of Thunder Bay administration, Fire Rescue, Police Service and Superior North EMS, with input from many community organizations such as Thunder Bay District Health Unit (TBDHU). The Group is integral to Thunder Bay’s response to community emergencies, including health and environmental crises, and has been continuously active over the past 25 months.

“During the pandemic, I have been responsible for coordinating MECG meetings. As the City’s contact with the Provincial Emergency Operations Centre (POEC), I liaise with Emergency Management Ontario Field Officers and other Provincial Ministry Emergency Management Coordinators, and also participate in the Vulnerable Populations COVID-19 Planning Table and Isolation Shelter Command. I assisted with procurement of government funding for isolation shelters in Thunder Bay, and coordinated assistance from the NGO Alliance of Ontario, specifically Team Rubicon and Samaritan’s Purse, when ‘boots on the ground’ supports were needed,” said Dennis. “I and members of all groups pitched in wherever we could. When not at meetings, I assisted at the isolation hotels.”

We asked Dennis if he had seen any “silver linings” about the pandemic during his work. 

“What stands out for me is how we were able to coordinate quickly with the PEOC and Ministries during the Corrections and District Jail outbreaks. The quick action of all our partners helped to contain the spread of the virus in early 2021. Working with the TBDHU, St. Joseph’s Care Group, Thunder Bay District Social Services Administration Board, the shelters and City of Thunder Bay’s Manager of Community Strategies, Cynthia Olsen, was key to limiting the spread of the virus in the vulnerable population. It was - and still is - a pleasure to work with everyone.”

Connecting with neighbours near and far is also an important part of Dennis’s job. “I feel great satisfaction when the City steps up as a host community when others need assistance for emergency evacuations. In addition, I have had the privilege of connecting and working with First Nation leadership and building relationships and trust.”  

Dennis even devotes some of his leisure time to his vocation as firefighter. As President of the Thunder Bay Professional Firefighters Association since 2013, he is currently working on a Health, Safety & Wellness program for firefighters in Thunder Bay.

Dennis sums up his work: “I have always enjoyed helping people. I learn something new every day, and really enjoy what I do.”

Tessa Hettrick - Volunteer Coordinator

Tessa Hettrick - City of Thunder BayTessa Hettrick, a self-described people person, began her work with the City in September of 2015 as Program Volunteer Coordinator with the Older Adult Unit at the Thunder Bay 55 Plus Centre. It’s a position she still holds and enjoys today.

“I’ve built a career here, working with the volunteers,” said Tessa. “The community of staff and volunteers at 55 Plus is like a small family, and runs like a well-oiled machine.” The volunteers at 55 Plus are seniors themselves. “55 Plus is one of the few places that’s ‘all seniors’, both volunteers and participants.”

As with many City jobs, Tessa’s work life and duties were altered fundamentally during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Services and programs offered to seniors at 55 Plus were cancelled, or (when possible) delivered online. During the closures, Tessa was redeployed twice: first to Jasper Place as a screener; and then back to 55 Plus to coordinate the income tax program and meals on wheels.

The changes from open to closed, back and forth, were hard on the 55 Plus Centre’s clients, volunteers and staff. “For many of the volunteers, their tasks at 55 Plus are a big part of their life,” said Tessa. “Closures at the Centre left them without their usual connections, isolated with nowhere to go. It was hard on their social, physical and mental well-being. With our gradual re-opening in fall of 2021, not all returned – and some had aged, from stress. It was also very difficult dealing with partial reopenings, where some but not all services could be offered, and some but not all people served.”

When asked if there has been any silver lining to the pandemic, Tessa was quick to point out 55 Plus’s income tax services, which were delivered in a new way during COVID-19. “Many seniors were worried about whether the income tax service would be offered during the pandemic,” said Tessa. “Our volunteers were able to shift to virtual and drop-off service, sometimes involving phone interviews. Many seniors made donations in appreciation of this, which benefitted the 55 Plus Centre directly.” In 2022, the income tax service is back to in-person, but drop-off and telephone options remain available.

“The pandemic has been hard on everybody,’ said Tessa. “However, witnessing how people have come together to rise above what has been happening – it’s been very inspiring. Volunteers and clients are passionate about the work we do at 55 Plus. We’re so glad people stuck it out with us!”

“Now that we’re coming out of it, there are a lot of good things in the future.”

Crystal Wilson - School Crossing Guard

When Crystal Wilson was hired 39 years ago as a School Crossing Guard, it wasn’t by the City of Thunder Bay.

Crystal Wilson - City of Thunder Bay School Crossing Guard

“Back in those days, crossing guards were handled by Thunder Bay Police,” said Crystal. “I was originally hired by Constable McEwan.”

Crystal has spent most of her 39 years on duty guarding the safety of students crossing Redwood Avenue in front of St. Francis School. “I had a couple of other temporary stints at the beginning, at nearby schools,” she said. “I was at St. Vincent School, and at Agnew H. Johnson School for a while.” Agnew H. Johnson Public School closed permanently in 2020.

Asked about the challenges of being a School Crossing Guard during the pandemic, Crystal said the hardest part was simply not seeing the children, and missing celebrations like Hallowe’en, Christmas and – her favourite celebration – Valentine’s Day.

“The kids are the best part of the job. They are why I am here, to see them all every day. I’ve gotten to know whole families, and have seen many kids grow up. The parents are great, too, and have been understanding about pandemic difficulties.”

Crystal is very glad to be back on the job now that schools have reopened, although things are not entirely back to normal yet. “Now that we are back, there are still some restrictions – for instance, Crossing Guards can’t come into the school.”

She added, “No matter what, the safety of the children comes first.”

Lauren Halsey - Associate Archivist

As an Associate Archivist with the City of Thunder Bay, Lauren Halsey’s workplace has usually been the Harry Kirk Archives & Records Centre on Vickers Street. However, that changed suddenly with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic and the proposal that she be temporarily redeployed just a few days after she began work-from-home in March, 2020. Her destination was Jasper Place, a City-operated residence for older adults. Lauren was to work at Jasper Place for five months.

Lauren Halsey - Associate Archivist - City of Thunder Bay“I was a screener,” said Lauren, “but I took on other tasks as well – any little thing that would help take some of the pressure off the staff so they could focus on their work, and make life a bit easier for the tenants. It was early in the pandemic, and everyone was scrambling to make sense of the constantly changing information and best practices. It was a frustrating, confusing, and frightening time for many people. Despite that, it was extraordinary to witness the amount of work and dedication the support staff put in every day to take care of the tenants.”

“At Jasper Place I was doing a job that hadn’t existed before, in a setting in which I had virtually no experience. But every day I went home feeling like I had really done something useful, including just chatting with the tenants who would stop by the screening desk to say hello.”

Lauren is back to fulfilling her duties as Associate Archivist now, which comprise a multitude of tasks such as helping to manage the City’s records management program, advising on information privacy measures, training City staff in records management, processing Freedom of Information requests, tackling research questions, and preserving over 130 years of historical municipal records. In addition, Lauren promotes fascinating archival material to City staff and the public. Attention to detail is vital to her job.

“Researching archival records can be a bit of a treasure hunt sometimes,” said Lauren. Some requests are for very old materials, and there can be uncertainty at times over whether requested records even exist. Often, other interesting records are found along the way. During the closure of the Archives to the public due to the pandemic, Lauren has been called upon to perform a greater number of physical searches for materials, rather than assisting researchers who come to the site. “It’s a great feeling when I’m able to find exactly what someone is looking for.”

Lauren has also helped City staff understand and manage new challenges the pandemic has brought to records management and information privacy/security. For instance, when working from home, staff must take special care that both digital and physical records, and anything with personal or sensitive information, cannot be accessed by anyone else in the house. Virtual meetings have presented similar challenges, especially for staff with small children at home. “Archives staff are always happy to help with any privacy concerns or questions,” said Lauren.

Looking to the future, Lauren’s journey through the COVID-19 pandemic at work has influenced her plans in a positive way: “I’m hoping to spend some time volunteering at Jasper Place in future, when pandemic restrictions allow.”

Ian Morgan - Chief Chemist

Dr. Ian Morgan joined the City as Chief Chemist about six months before the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Having lived and worked away from Thunder Bay for more than 10 years, Ian received a call for the interview for his current position on the same day he intended to finalize a house purchase in Alberta. “My wife and I ended up ‘passing’ on the house we had searched for 12 months to find - and well, it paid off!” said Ian.

Ian MorganIan uses his comprehensive background in the sciences as he collaborates with the various sections of the City’s Environment Division including the Water Pollution Control Plant (wastewater) and the Water Treatment Plant (drinking water). He also works closely with other divisions within the City’s Infrastructure and Operations Department, and various City of Thunder Bay offices. Occasionally he attends Council meetings to report scientific information.

In addition, Ian regularly fields communications from residents comprising everything from drinking water queries to spill reports. “The best part of my job is that every day is different, with varying problems or issues to address,” says Ian. “One day I’ll be needed at the Solid Waste & Recycling Facility to assist with a leachate treatment pilot project, the next I’ll be responding to citizen inquiries, and on another I’ll be working with Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks.”

The COVID-19 pandemic led to another way Ian could use his scientific background, when he was asked to work with the University of Windsor, Thunder Bay District Health Unit and the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks on Ontario’s Wastewater Surveillance Initiative. “Through analysing wastewater, we have been able to monitor the concentration of COVID-19 in the raw sewage arriving at the Water Pollution Control Plant,” said Ian. He notes that the water is not infectious – it merely contains tiny components of the virus. “Throughout this project, we and other cities have seen correlated trends in the decrease and increase of COVID-19 cases compared with the same city’s concentration of the virus in the sampled raw wastewater. This is just one of the exciting projects I am part of, collaborating with various academic institutions, agencies and departments.”

When away from science and technology, Ian enjoys all things recreational - from snowboarding the tops of the Rocky Mountains to riding 1980s engine-powered surfboards that he repairs, and just about everything in between. He is also very proud to have become a father in June of 2021.

Alain Joseph, Policy Analyst

Alain Joseph joined the City during the pandemic in March 2021 as a Policy Analyst with the Indigenous Relations office. He describes his role as one of a specialized translator who reviews complex documents and amends them into easily understandable policies and proposals.

Alain Joseph and his dog“Starting a new job in the midst of a pandemic has its challenges because I haven’t spent any time physically at City Hall where our office is based, and I have only met a few colleagues in person,” says Alain. “I try to focus on the positive, however, like how I can sing out loud to my favourite songs, which might not fly in the office.”

Alain works closely with nearly every department in the City, which is a unique aspect to the job that he enjoys. He cites work he’s done with Parks, Planning, various advisory committees and Events Planning, to name a few. And while much of what he does involves desk work, he often has opportunities to get out in the public. Most recently, he spent considerable time organizing a ceremonial tree planting for Truth and Reconciliation Day, along with sourcing cedar seedlings to give to residents to show their support for those impacted by residential schools.

Despite much of Alain’s work being virtual, he still manages to interact with many colleagues and feels accepted as part of the team. He appreciates the leadership across the board that help to support the plans and strategic vision of Indigenous Relations and the City overall.

“I enjoy working in an environment that has set goals and a clear vision on how to move the City forward,” says Alain. “And I like being a civil servant; it’s important to me to do meaningful work for my neighbours, friends and fellow citizens, especially in these difficult times.”     

Vicki Kuz, Human Resources Assistant

Vicki Kuz is one of three Human Resources Assistants in the Human Resources and Corporate Safety Division. She started working for the City in 1994 and after six years of working in

Vicki Kruzvarious unionized positions, accepted a position with the Recruitment & Support Services section in Human Resources and has remained there for the past twenty-one years.

Vicki’s main responsibilities are the recruitment tasks for Infrastructure & Operations, Community Services, the City Manager’s Office, and Thunder Bay Fire Rescue. She prepares job postings and closings, extends unionized job offers and ensures conditions of employment are met. She then closes off files and verifies staff notification change forms for Payroll to process. When not working on recruitment, Vicki schedules meetings and prepares clearances, keeps databases up to date, answers day-to-day questions from supervisors and employees and helps with any administrative tasks that need to be completed. 

The Human Resources Assistant position works in a fast-paced environment with constantly changing priorities and is very deadline-driven. Luckily for Vicki, she enjoys being very detail-orientated and organized. She is known for her in-depth knowledge of the various collective agreements that exist within the Corporation and is always willing to share that knowledge.

In 2021 alone, the HR Assistants have created approximately 345 job postings and Vicki has extended approximately 285 job offers. Getting to call candidates and offer them a job is the highlight of Vicki’s day. Hearing the excitement in someone’s voice and knowing she has made their day is always rewarding.  

Vicki has been working from home since March 2020 and has experienced challenges along the way. When in the office, the HR Assistants use a paper filing system and conditions are met by having candidates bring their paperwork into the HR office. With COVID, they have had to change their system to electronic forms and filing and have been accepting documentation through email. Working through a global pandemic has required the team to adapt to rapid changes.  There have been a few vacancies on her team and Vicki has had to adjust to the use of technology (MS Teams) and embrace training new employees virtually. Working from home has also been a challenge for Vicki because she misses the daily interaction with co-workers. If you know Vicki, you know that she is a ‘people person’, so she’s looking forward to returning to the office and feeling that energy again.

Vicki would like to thank all of the employees who stepped up and were redeployed to areas that needed help during the pandemic. She also acknowledges that all employees have had to deal with different struggles and challenges throughout the pandemic, and she is proud of the way that everyone has worked together to keep the city running. It has been very inspiring to her. 

Kevin Paradis, Advanced Care Paramedic 

With 30 years in the field, Advanced Care Paramedic Kevin Paradis serves as one of the longest standing paramedics in Thunder Bay. In his role with Superior 
Kevin Paradis outside SNEMS SUV North EMS (SNEMS), he provides what’s known in the field as pre-hospital care where patients are treated at home wherever possible. 

“Generally the work of paramedics continues to evolve to encompass preventative care services above and beyond responding to emergency calls,” says Kevin. “The pandemic highlighted the need to protect our healthcare system from becoming overrun, so it made sense for paramedics, who are equipped with life-saving devices and trained to treat injuries and ailments, to become the buffer between patients and hospital.”

As a result of the pandemic, Kevin was seconded to the COVID-19 Task Force to help with testing and vaccinations once they became available. Kevin and his colleagues provided frontline support with swabbing and getting tests to the lab quickly. No easy feat given SNEMS is one of the busiest ambulance services by call volume in Ontario.

Kevin attributes the resiliency of frontline workers and those behind the scenes as part of what motivated him to keep going.

“Hats off to my colleagues and all frontline workers including those staff who dealt with an outbreak in a local long-term care home. They inspired me to postpone my vacation to stay and help on the frontlines,” says Kevin. “I also want to recognize one of the unsung heroes of the pandemic—those processing Covid tests at the Public Health Ontario lab. They worked extremely long hours under high pressure to get results as quickly as possible. They played an integral role in seeing our community through this.”

Lee Mesic, Administrator

When Lee Mesic set out to work as a Registered Nurse, she never imagined she would end up working in the long-term care sector. Yet once there, she knew it was for her. Lee Mesic at her desk

“As a nurse starting out in acute care, moving to long-term care was a major career change that turned out to be the right decision. It did not take long before I grew a love and passion for the work and especially for the people we serve,” says Lee. “It involves a whole new level of care and intimacy that makes for strong connections with residents, staff and families alike.”

Today, as the Administrator of Pioneer Ridge under Corporate Services and Long Term Care, Lee Mesic oversees and directs 24-hour care and services provided in Pioneer Ridge, as well as supporting the auxiliary services managed by Jasper Place; Meals on Wheels, a Supportive Housing program, and a small city Homemaking program.

It’s a high-intensity role, and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, long-term care homes became the epicentre of the virus. The threat and immense fear of an outbreak created many challenges that tested the endurance of all staff.

“The pandemic meant employees had to adapt to constant change and stringent safety measures, while maintaining the compassionate, quality care we are known for,” says Lee. “Our Residents, staff and families' social and emotional well-being has been greatly impacted by this virus.

"Like they have in all challenging situations, our staff have stepped up to the plate, and that’s what has sustained us through to this stage. Every day, as I observe the commitment and care provided by staff doing their part, I am inspired, and this in turn has been my fuel to keep going.”

New infection control requirements were implemented throughout all operations, and employees found many innovative solutions to meet resident needs and connect families with loved ones when they couldn’t be together in person. Depending on the level of emergency the pandemic took, virtual, window and outdoor visits were utilized, as well as a mail campaign to send cards to residents. Also, lights were strewn on the grounds to brighten spirits over the holidays.

“It has been challenging, particularly trying to remain communicative with multiple stakeholders in an ever-changing environment,” says Lee. “In spite of that, our team shone and always prioritized safety for the residents and each other. I’m proud of them and know their efforts served as a catalyst to the transformational change that will impact our entire sector for years to come.”

Lee believes that a silver lining to the pandemic involves the greater focus and attention it has brought to the long-term care sector. It also highly demonstrated the success and achievements of municipally run Senior Services. “We learn from challenges, and in this case, it became clear the need to establish a new path forward that emphasizes the importance of seniors having the opportunity to age with dignity and respect.” 

Elaine Vidas, Registered Early Childhood Educator & Assistant Supervisor

For almost 29 years, Elaine Vidas has shaped children’s lives as a Registered Early Childhood Educator (RECE), and Assistant Supervisor at the City. As an RECE and certified member of the Elaine Vidas Association of Early Childhood Educators of Ontario, she provides a nurturing environment that supports children’s overall well-being, while also ensuring policies and procedures are followed. 

Elaine spent 19 years at Ogden Child Care Centre before moving to Grace Remus where she currently works. But she wouldn’t call it work, because everyday she gets to be around the cutest kids who smile and laugh so readily.

“I truly love my job and am inspired each day by these young individuals who are curious about the world around them,” says Elaine. “It’s very rewarding watching them grow and knowing I’m supporting their development and life skills along the way.”

Something unique about her job is the connection Grace Remus shares with Pioneer Ridge Long Term Care Facility. Pre-Covid, the children would visit with the seniors twice each week. The residents would treat the children like celebrities, and it was a special bond they all miss. Still, staff try to keep the visits up through a connecting window where the children run up and greet residents.

“I believe we are the only childcare facility in Thunder Bay that is housed in a long term care home, providing programming that links seniors and little ones, and it has been a great success,” says Elaine. “We just have to stay safe, and we will come out stronger once we get through this.”

The pandemic also impacts the connections of Early Childhood Educators and parents. It’s not easy to engage with parents virtually when many of whom visited before Covid-19.

“It’s been a learning curve for everybody to find ways to stay connected, but we are finding our way through this,” says Elaine.

Talia Strickland, Pandemic Support Worker

As Head Lifeguard at the Canada Games Complex, Talia knows a thing or two about saving lives. So when COVID-19 struck and pools had to close, it made senseTalia Strickland for her to move into another role, joining the ranks of Pandemic Support Workers. Having lent a hand to Pioneer Ridge in 2020, Talia was recently redeployed again to the vaccine clinic at the Coliseum under a secondment agreement with the Thunder Bay District Health Unit.

“The fact that I am working for the City but for another organization feels a little like a cooperative placement for school,” Talia explains. “It’s refreshing to gain valuable work experience while meeting new people and running into old friends in the process.”

Pandemic Support Workers based at the Coliseum are helping citizens throughout the vaccination process. There are workers handling the initial screening questions while confirming appointments, and others directing patrons down the lines where they complete consent forms before heading to one of the 15 nurses’ stations. Once vaccinated, there’s a short waiting period to ensure people are feeling well enough to proceed to the checkout counter to obtain proof of vaccination and to book a second appointment, if needed.

Currently the clinic serves about 700 people a day, and many of those people are sharing their appreciation for the seamless process through letters to the editor and thank-you cards.

“It’s inspiring to see renewed hope in people as they get vaccinated. With each person we serve, we are that much closer to getting through this together,” says Talia.

The clinic runs from Monday to Friday with appointments between 9 am and 4:30 pm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. For those with different schedules, the clinic is open later from 11:30 am to 7 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays. To book an appointment or get on a waiting list, visit is covid-19.ontario.ca/book-vaccine/ or call 1-833-943-3900.

 Todd Little, Specialized Transit Operator

With 32 years on the job, Todd Little, Specialized Transit Operator at LIFT+, has come to expect certain questions about what he does and how LIFT+ works in Todd Littlethe community.

“People tend to not know about us, until they need us, and then we’re there,” he explains. “It’s understandable because life happens. It could be someone who broke their leg and suddenly needs a lift to physiotherapy, and that’s where we come in—we get them where they need to go.”  

People with disabilities utilize the door-to-door service to attend appointments or run errands. Service is by appointment and runs Monday-Saturday from 6 am – 12 am and Sundays from 8 am to 11 pm.

Todd says that his passengers are the main reason he likes his job so much.

“You get to know most of your riders, and it’s so much fun to connect with them on a regular basis and see how they’re doing,” he says. “We have good relationships, and share a lot of laughs, which is very rewarding.”

But like most workplaces, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about many changes. Todd misses those faces he sees a lot less of now that there’s a lockdown. And he’s had to adapt to new safety measures that make for less riders per trip, along with barriers resulting from physical distancing, mask-wearing and Plexiglas.

Still, he’s glad there are such stringent requirements to keep drivers and riders safe. And despite the recent challenges, the service remains flexible insomuch as it can accommodate a cancelled appointment, for example, and return the rider without having to wait for a new bus.  

 “I love what I do and feel lucky to be able to do it for so long. The quality of life I have here is so much better than I had in previous jobs. I look back and think if someone would’ve told me in high school that I would have a job I love, I wouldn’t have believed it.”

Team Shout-Out

“I can’t say enough about my supervisor Pascal Gauvreau and his efforts to support our team who are a great group of people to work with. And I’d like to especially thank our co-worker, Tricia Quinton, who went above and beyond when she made masks for us before PPE was mandatory.”

Jamie Fulkerson, Corporate Safety Specialist

Jamie Fulkerson has been with the City’s Corporate Safety Division for ten years. She is one of two Corporate Safety Specialists, and works with City departmentsJamie Fulkerson as a resource for all things safety. This includes assisting departments, supervisors, and Joint Health and Safety Committees with their required safety training, investigation of critical and major incidents, ensuring compliance with safety legislation and the City’s Safety Management System, and developing corporate safety procedures and safety talks.

 

One thing Jamie likes most about her job is the dynamic and constantly changing environment that she responds to. Corporate Safety Specialists at the City never know what their days are going to be like, and even before the onset of COVID-19, there is never a boring day! While others in this profession often only have to focus on one type of business, Jamie is a resource for a diverse group of operations. She needs to know the legislation and safety processes, and have an understanding of the operations in Long Term Care, Recreation, Transit, Fleet, building maintenance, and administrative areas.

 

Since the pandemic set in, Jamie and the team at Corporate Safety have additional focus on educating themselves with information from the Thunder Bay District Health Unit, Ontario Public Health, Health Canada, etc. to create a long list of COVID Temporary Procedures, Safety Talks, and other COVID related documents. They have been assisting the departments, both those that have continued to be operational during the pandemic, and those that have had to create reopening plans. After being closed for a period of time, city facilities and departments must have new COVID precautions to implement; plans required for physical distancing when possible; masking, proper hand hygiene, and active screening processes; updated COVID specific signage, etc. Plus, the regular day to day events in the workplace still happen and need their attention.

 

Jamie has been fortunate to see a silver lining emerge, during this difficult time in her career, seeing City staff working together in ways they may not have to under normal circumstances. As she assists Pioneer Ridge and Jasper Place, the continued dedication of staff to the residents and tenants has been amazing to see. Both from those staff who are permanently employed in these areas, to the stories heard from staff who have been redeployed during the pandemic, Jamie believes that they definitely embody Thunder Bay’s giant heart.

 

In closing, Jamie expresses her appreciation for the rest of the Safety team, including all of Human Resources and Corporate Safety for helping to support the work that the Safety Specialists do, and for assisting in answering the many COVID related questions that have come up in the past 11 months. In addition, she would like to thank all the City management and staff for their ongoing ability to adapt to the crisis and for continuing to doing their part so that we can go back to doing more normal things sooner rather than later.

 

 

Alexa Fares, Program Supervisor - Customer Services and Programs, Recreation & Culture

Alexa FaresAlexa Fares is the Program Supervisor – Customer Services and Programs, within the Recreation Culture Division of the Community Services Department and she has been with the City for nearly 15 years. Alexa is responsible for a very broad range of citizen facing services such as Canada Games Complex (CGC) memberships, refunds, Squash programming and operational services as well as children and youth programming in after school programs, summer camps and Kidventures.

In this position, there is an array of things that need Alexa’s attention daily, and her area of responsibility is comprehensive, requiring her to constantly adapt and deal with a wide range of people and personalities. She moves from supervision of the childcare room at the Complex (which provides care for children aged four months and up); to children’s programs in the Academy neighbourhood, bringing kids to the facility for swimming; to setting up the Complex’s squash program. Her job has her interacting with patrons of the Canada Games Complex, and neighbourhood families as well as all the staff who develop and deliver these programs.

One of the best things about Alexa’s job would be the people. She sees her team as fantastic people who are fun, and love their jobs. She is proud of them as go-getters and enjoys seeing them grow through the programming they deliver. From a public perspective, she loves the people she serves, especially the faces that have been there forever.

Alexa's job has changed tremendously due to the pandemic. In the beginning, as most could agree, there was a lot of uncertainty. Her team developed a variety of virtual programming to stay connected with kids, and spent a lot of time trying to figure out camps and programs for summer, and define what they would look like. At times their offerings and services would need to change, based on updated health directives. As they worked through how to re-invent summer programming, efforts shifted to reopening of the Canada Games Complex, and adapting their staffing and services appropriately, on top of trying to interpret and apply new provincial announcements. Alexa sees this as a very interesting period in her career as everyone worked through figuring out what was best for their members and their staff, what would work and what wouldn't, as the Thunder Bay District moved through the provincial colour-coded system. In a facility like the Complex, when it was restricted to 50 people in attendance, there was a lot of trust in staff as the guidelines were especially strict with recreation facilities. Alexa and her team worked through their new duties and training all the while managing what was best for their members.

Alexa sees adaptability as the silver lining to the pandemic. It has taught her to be proactive and creative, and think ahead a lot more, to anticipate scenarios in order to apply changes to upcoming events.

Overall, Alexa is proud of how everyone has stepped up and found ways to “make it work”. All of their programming is different now, and staff has adapted. Families and kids have been so appreciative of having some type of programming, and patrons have been so excited to return to the Canada Games Complex while adjusting to things like instructors behind glass, and the drastic change in the manner that swimming lessons are delivered. When they were reopening in the fall and the doors of the Complex opened, it was clear to Alexa how much people depend on these programs for their wellness.

Linda Pauluik, Pioneer Ridge Supervisor of Financial Services

Linda Pauluik

Since starting her career at the City as a Food and Nutrition Services Supervisor at Pioneer Ridge in 2005, Linda Pauluik has worked in a variety of roles including spending time at the 55 Plus Centre and Community Economic Development Corporation (CEDC) before returning to Pioneer Ridge as Supervisor of Financial Services almost two years ago.

Having come full circle, Linda loves being back at Pioneer Ridge where she takes initiative to improve the quality of life for residents and staff alike. 

“I love my job and having the chance to interact with residents, especially one-on-one, nothing beats that,” she says. 

In a pandemic year, Linda was feeling the stress and anxiety among staff, so she organized a variety of safe holiday activities to help alleviate some of the pressure. She collected prizes, and when staff were unexpectedly restricted to stay on their floor due to additional precautions being put in place, she found a way for everyone to safely participate. 

Her contests succeeded at boosting morale and good cheer in trying times and as a result, co-workers wanted to share how appreciative they were of all she does. 

As a result of COVID-19, Linda saw her workload increase. “In a normal year, there are a lot of reports to do, but with COVID-19, it’s unbelievable the increase of overall paperwork. But it keeps things running here at Pioneer Ridge and through our community services such as Meals on Wheels and LIFT+ specialized transit, we are able to continue helping those in need throughout the pandemic.” 

When visitor restrictions began taking effect, Linda took on the responsibility of developing processes and procedures for implementing safety screening protocols, which required flexibility as things changed quickly. She also joined an internal committee to exchange coordinated information regarding COVID-19, which helped get some of the good news stories from Pioneer Ridge out to the public. 

 

Team shout-out 

“When you can’t be there to hold their hand, we do. Our staff have really stepped up to the plate to help fill social gaps for residents. Through virtual visits, or coordinating donations to ‘Light Up the Ridge’, our team continues to go the distance in this pandemic, and I’m very proud of them.”

Maria Pepe, Acting Secretary-Treasurer, Committee of Adjustment

Maria Pepe

Originally hired as a Planning Technician in July 2019, Maria Pepe recently accepted a role as Acting Secretary-Treasurer for the Committee of Adjustment in the Planning Services Division. Comprised of a group of Council-appointed individuals from the general public, the Committee of Adjustment (COA) considers changes to the City’s Zoning By-law that are minor in nature. Some examples would be to decrease the required side yards of a property, or increase the maximum height of a structure permitted on a property.

Maria works closely with the property owners (applicants) assisting them with their applications and confirming that all requirements of the Zoning By-law have been captured. Her responsibilities center around processing the applications and ensuring procedures and policies are followed as outlined in the provincial Planning Act. The process is quite extensive as there are a number of internal divisions and other agencies who are involved in the review of the applications. As well, a circulation is mailed around the applicant’s neighbourhood to give the community an opportunity to weigh in and express their support or concerns. 

Once all the comments are received and compiled, Maria forwards the full application package to each member of the Committee. The Committee of Adjustment meet once a month in Council Chambers to review up to 13 applications at one Hearing.

Maria enjoys working with the Planning Team, which consists of a group of professional Planners and Planning Technicians. As part of a professional organization, she has the opportunity to participate in a number of interesting webinars around Planning and COA issues. She enjoys this part of her job the most as she is continuously learning something new.

“The workload has definitely increased this year, partly around restrictions to public meetings. More time is spent educating both applicants and the public on how to participate in virtual meetings, especially with individuals who are not as familiar with computers or technology. And it’s a process that is repeated each month with a new group of applicants,” explains Maria.

As far as a silver lining with all the added work, she sees more people willing to use the City’s website. “With our offices being closed to the public, people have been quite receptive when I explain to them how easy it is to navigate our website and showing them the mapping features, which many are quite impressed with.”  Find information on The Planning Act, Provincial Policy Statement, the Official Plan and more by visiting www.thunderbay.ca/buildingandplanningservices

Team Shout-Out

“I would like to thank my colleagues who continuously give their time in helping me do my job better. I am inspired by my colleagues’ wealth of knowledge, and thank them for sharing it with me.”

Jessica Steele, Council Support Clerk

Jessica Steele at her desk

Imagine arriving at work and finding out that you are needed to stand-in as the maid of honour at a wedding happening right then and there.

Jessica Steele does that and more with a smile from the main floor in City Hall. Employed within the Clerks’ department for three years, she assumed her new job of Council Support Clerk a year ago. In this role, she handles the frontlines as the person the public turns to for a myriad of requests, including asking her to join their wedding party in Council Chambers.

“The whole wedding process is a lot of fun and not as complicated as people might think,” she says. “It’s a cool part of the job and sometimes I even get to issue marriage licenses to my friends.”

Since COVID-19 began, Jessica has been there, helping people with their ever-changing inquiries. She enjoys the challenge of helping people find the information they need, which she says pushes her to be very resourceful. Yet the days do look different with safety requirements in place. “The pandemic has definitely changed things. We had to adapt to a different way of working including taking more appointments and answering more phone calls overall.”

Given the increased demands of her job, she finds that the public are mostly patient and understanding. They recognize that many things are taking a bit longer now to complete, and they seem thankful that Clerks are still there for them and have been since the start of the pandemic.

 

Team shout-out

“This year has been a challenge and one that makes me realize the things in life that are most important, and that includes my work family. We’ve all helped each other stay happy and optimistic, and I’m thankful for that.”

Brandon Smith, Fire Prevention Officer

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.

 

Andrew Leschuk, Swim Instructor and Lifeguard

What is your official job title?Andrew Leschuk

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?Cindy Woodbeck

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 Steve Kondreska

 

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. Janelle Darosa

 

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

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

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 Howie

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.