By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – It’s been a bittersweet couple of weeks at the Morinville Community Cultural Centre. Morinville’s Director of Community Services Susan MacDonald last day is this Friday, ending her nearly two-year position in the community. MacDonald will be heading to Lacombe where she will take on the position of Executive Director of Family and Community Support Services (FCSS).
“It’s kind of like going home to us,” MacDonald said of the move. “We lived in Lacombe for 20 some years.”
While looking forward to moving back to a community where she spent two decades of her life and where she has family and many friends, MacDonald said she will miss the community she has called home for the past two years. “It’s been a great experience, great to work with the people, as far as colleagues for the Town of Morinville” the director said of her time in Morinville, adding she has also enjoyed working with council and the different committees and community groups she’s gotten to know over the past two years. “That’s certainly been a pleasure and a learning experience.”
MacDonald said she has enjoyed watching Morinville grow into a community that is rapidly approaching city status. The community services director said she is sorry to be leaving at a time of exciting growth for the community, but is pleased to have been part of that growth. Projects she has had a hand in over the past couple of years have been the Community Cultural Centre and her department’s move this spring to the new facility. Additionally, MacDonald said she enjoyed working with the various community groups on a variety of projects and working on the recently-passed Parks and Recreation Master Plan. “That’s exciting because it will be a very exciting time for the town,” the director said of the short- and long-term plans for Morinville’s parks and open spaces. “There are lots of things on the horizon as far as facilities and green spaces and trails – connecting the community. That’s a really exciting time for the town.”
The community’s trails are something near and dear to MacDonald. An avid runner for the past decade, she has spent many early morning hours running through the community whose community services she has overseen. The pathways have given her a better understanding of the community and her role as community services director.
“Running is my passion outside of work,” she said. “It’s my one activity that takes the stress off, and I really enjoy it. As far as running in Morinville, I do all the trails and different neighbourhoods so I can get enough time in. Unfortunately, there are not many hills in town. That’s the one down side. But I think with the trail development down the road, we’re looking at expanding the trail and making more connections, lengthening the trails around town so that we can keep adding on the distances. I think that will be great for walkers, cyclists, skateboarders and runners.”
But while MacDonald is confident Morinvillians will enjoy being able to head on down the trail, her coworkers are sad to see their boss heading down the trail to Lacombe.
“In the short time she was here, she came in and she really aligned departments,” said Morinville’s Recreation Coordinator Melonie Dziwenka, noting MacDonald was an excellent boss in many other ways. “Susan’s personality was easy to work for, and because her background is in recreation and so is mine – I saw her as a mentor. I feel like in a lot of ways I haven’t picked her brain [enough] and I’m really sad that she is leaving.”
But Dziwenka is not alone in her regret that MacDonald will no longer be with the Town of Morinville. Family and Community Services Coordinator Amy Dribnenky is also sad to see MacDonald go but said she has enjoyed her time working with the director.
“We’re definitely going to miss her,” Dribnenky said. “She’s been a wonderful boss in that she’s been really supportive of a lot of our ideas, programs and plans. But she’s also been really supportive on a personal note with wherever we happen to be in our lives, giving us that friendship and kindness.”
The admiration and respect is mutual. “Within our Community Services Department I think we have a really strong staff,” MacDonald said of her colleagues. “As far as working with the Town as part of the executive team; it’s been a super experience.”