Over the weekend I had the opportunity to sit down with Kristin Strackerjan over breakfast. I do not know her personally, only through her work on Council. It was an informal meeting, an opportunity to get to know her as a person, not so much her political views or her Council work. It was one of those mysteries one just needed to solve.
It was one of the most fascinating breakfasts I have had. I knew that she served in the Military, but I had no clue as to what she did there. In the latter part of her military career, she travelled a lot as part of her role in the Open Skies Treaty, effectively trying to keep things honest between the West and Russia. As she said to me, she was away more than she was home. However, she loved that part of her work, and is thankful that her partner was there to encourage and support her. In fact, he did most of the heavy lifting when it came to their young family. Kristin has degrees in Physics, a diploma in Meteorology, and a Masters in Remote Sensing.
Since her retirement from the Forces, she has stuck to her scientific and technical roots working for the Federal government as an IT manager. Due to Covid, she was able to work from home and she continues to be at home more than not. Many folks have come to realise that employees can be just as effective, if not more so, working from home. She now greatly enjoys walking with her three teen/tween children to the bus stop in the mornings and greeting them at the end of the school day. Things that many of us take for granted.
So my question to her, why take on Council, a very thankless job at times and open to much criticism? For her, it was a natural transition, having lived here since 2010 and being involved with school councils, sports teams, community groups, and so on. Like many, she had frustrations with the lack of communication between council and the public.
With the 2018 elections nearing, she asked herself, if I can’t run, who can? “I’m capable of doing this. I understand how to work with community groups. I understand so many things just by my experience. And I sort of stopped and went, if I don’t think I’m qualified, who is qualified? This was not to say that I was better than anyone else, but just that I had the qualifications. As soon as I got to that point and thought, I could do this, I then thought, why wouldn’t I try?”
So, after deliberating over it, it seems like she made the right move.
“John, Deron, Nancy and I knew each other going into the election. So we had conversations about what we wanted to see done differently, what we felt was missing. I think it was really odd that there wasn’t much transparency in how decisions were made by the previous council. And really, each one of us found that frustrating, because we wanted people to understand, because we wanted to understand it. And then when we came together, Jim McManaman had the idea of doing the discussion forums that we had early on. They were great (up until COVID hit)! It was an opportunity for discussion in the community. That was all born from wanting to see more engagement, more transparency, more conversations; not seeing that previously and wanting to do things differently.”
She felt she could make a difference in a community she has come to call home. Although she did not initially get in, a vacancy soon after the elections meant that she was the next in line. She accepted the position and then ran again in the most recent election.
I asked Kristin what makes this council so different. I have often wondered why someone would take on these kinds of jobs, but have come to realise that this present council is the best I have seen for over 30 years, despite the criticism they have received over the Jail and certain other projects. As Kristin said, they work as a team. Under Nancy Peckford’s leadership, they are doing more than any council has ever done before in this community.
In fact, having talked to other municipalities, we have become the envy of many. Mind you, they are not perfect. I don’t always agree with what they do, but they will always make themselves available to discuss disagreements. You will see them weekly, either out on the streets, talking to people, or promoting special events (and there are many of them). Rarely is there not one or more Councillor attending an event.
Kristin and her council colleagues may have started out as newbies, but they have grown into an experienced and able team. Having someone as capable and qualified as Kristin on council is a real asset to this community.