by Deron Johnston
Small towns are built by volunteers. Not only are they built by them, but they’re also maintained and grown by them. Community development in rural areas is simply not possible without volunteers. Small towns typically don’t have the financial resources to offer the same variety of services that are offered by much larger centres. This is where community organizations run by volunteers step in and provide these services, sometimes even essential ones.
The Old Town Kemptville Business Improvement Area (BIA) is no exception. The BIA relies heavily on its volunteers who make up our Board of Management, which makes all of the major decisions for the BIA. The Events Committee (which plans and organizes all events and promotions in the downtown), the Executive Committee, and the Expansion Steering Committee, are also comprised of volunteers (some of whom have no direct relationship to the downtown). Some volunteers often sit on multiple committees, meaning they make a significant commitment of their personal time to support the business and property owners of the downtown.
This past year, the BIA lost four key volunteers from our Board of Management. All of them made considerable contributions in their own ways to the BIA during their time. Though they are no longer on the board, they all keep very close contact with the BIA and are all ready to offer their support whenever needed.
Lee McIlvenna, co-owner of Geronimo Coffee House, brought a practical and analytical voice to the table during his time. He often challenged ideas that were incomplete, and regularly asked how something was going to benefit our small business owners. His advocacy for his fellow business owners was widely respected and appreciated at the board table. We wish Lee and his wife Teri the absolute best as they move on to the next part of their lives in a couple of months.
Connie Lamble, of the Law Office of Connie Lamble, was a constant voice of reason, and often gave solid advice to the board, including from a legal and liability perspective. She was also a passionate chair of the former Parking Committee that made a number of recommendations to enhance parking options in the downtown. This work resulted in more signage and additional parking spaces being added in the downtown area. Connie still regularly contributes to the BIA through participation in events and promotions, and willingly offers a legal opinion for the board when asked.
Kim Smalridge of Stepping Stone Pediatric Physical Therapy was our Vice-Chair of the Board for the past two years. Kim often pushed the board towards continuous improvement by asking tough questions about the activities of the board, if she felt they could be improved, or would question if certain things were even necessary for the board to do, based on its mandate and commitments to its members. Though she doesn’t have a business with traditional office hours, Kim is always supportive of, and participates in, BIA events and promotions.
Paul Cormier stepped down earlier in 2019 after serving a full term on the Board of Management during the term of office of the previous municipal council. Paul held the positions of both Chair and Secretary, spanning five years. Paul’s background, with his company RANA Process, was instrumental in the previous term of the board, as he took on the onerous task of updating all of the board’s governance and bylaw. Paul had high expectations of the board and its members, but was always the first one to offer support to anyone who was having difficulties. Paul’s leadership was essential in putting the BIA in the healthy position that it is today.
Though these four volunteers may have left the board, and their mark on the BIA, we have been very fortunate to have new volunteers step forward who are knowledgeable, passionate, and eager to bring their own skills and experiences to the board and help it continue to build a sustainable path forward for the BIA in the years to come.