Sundre’s new top administrator told the Round Up she was not just looking for a new job when she applied for the position.
“I was actually looking for a home,” said Linda Nelson, who comes qualified with a lengthy resume after working in different departments in municipal government, primarily in Banff and Strathmore.
Originally born and raised in Jasper, she said last week during an interview at her new office that her goal is to become part of Sundre.
“I will have a vested interest in the community. I want to make it better than it already is, because Sundre is a jewel and there is so much potential here.”
Discovering her passion for municipal administration largely began as “kind of a fluke,” she confessed candidly.
After graduating from Calgary’s Bow Valley College in the late ’90s following her successful completion of a computer applications program in which she had to do a practicum that led to a position in Banff, where she trained staff to transition from old AS400 computers to PC, Nelson knew she was on the right career path.
“It was there that I discovered that I had a passion for planning and development, and local government in general.”
Being hired on full-time in Banff after graduating, she said an inter-governmental job posting eventually came up from the Town of Strathmore and that she decided to apply.
“It was to work with the planning and development department,” she said.
“So I jumped at the chance.”
As the successful candidate for that position, Nelson said she immediately began to pursue further enhancing her education through the University of Alberta by completing courses such as applied land use planning as well as local government administration.
“I believe in continuous professional development.”
Since then, she has also taken a course through Dalhousie University in Halifax, where she received her professional certification in law and ethics.
During her 19 years working in Strathmore, her passion for administrative work never waivered.
“I knew that’s where I belonged, was in municipal government.”
Being a part of a team that contributes to the growth of a municipality is among the most rewarding aspects of her career, she said.
“I love planning and development. Just simply by the virtue of the fact you take a piece of dirt, and you watch it develop every step of the way into something functional and beautiful. Building communities is a really good feeling.”
Among the most successful projects she is proud to have been a part of in Strathmore include turning a decommissioned sewage lagoon into a world-class compost facility through business partnerships, as well as the development of a unique project called perpetually affordable market housing. In a nutshell, through block funding from the province, the municipality was able to offer residents who met criteria the opportunity to purchase a home. So instead of paying rent, those who qualified built up their equity, and once they had paid off more than they owed, the owner could sell the home, she said.
“What makes it perpetual is that the equity stays with the unit. So they have to pay that back.”
For example, if the owner sold the home for $200,000, about $50,000 would be paid back into that equity so that another person would have the same opportunity, she said.
“That was kind of a neat concept.”
Nelson also helped steer Strathmore towards significant growth.
“The other thing I’m really proud of, is I brought Strathmore from a community of comparable size as Sundre to now a thriving small city of over 13,000.”
Administrative work always presents unexpected curveballs, “but not only is that challenging, that’s also what makes it exciting and rewarding. You have to think on your feet. You have to be able to manage a variety of expectations and tasks.”
Having just last summer purchased a summer home at Tall Timber, she “fell in love with the community and so I was really interested in Sundre, and when I saw that that position was made available, I jumped at the chance.”
She plans to relocate to be within five to 10 minutes of Sundre, if not right in town.
“I would just like everybody to know that I’m really excited and I’m thrilled that council chose me.”
Having started on Monday, April 3, her first two weeks have so far gone well.
“I’ve spent most of my time listening rather than talking, watching processes, procedures, making a ton of notes and then starting to formulate a plan. You can’t change things until you understand how they work.”
However, the way things have been done in the past are not necessarily wrong, but revisiting procedures to find efficiencies helps to create a more streamlined process, she said.
Espousing an open door policy, Sundre’s new chief administrative officer welcomes residents who have questions or concerns to drop by.
“One of my goals is to go out and meet all of the local businesses, and I would love to meet local residents as well.”