The Town of Pelham’s roundly lauded handling of the COVID-19 pandemic has put staff in the spotlight of national and provincial trade publications.
The Town Clerk’s department and the department of Recreation, Culture and Wellness were recently profiled by Municipal World and the Ontario Recreation Facilities Association, respectively, for their work in handling various challenges during the pandemic
The Clerk’s department under Nancy Bozzato managed to successfully execute a municipal by-election last September, while the work of keeping the community centre running under unprecedented circumstances earned Vickie van Ravenswaay and her staff plaudits.
“Getting good press from those in the know is always a reflection of quality,” said CAO David Cribbs.
Pelham’s top bureaucrat said that conducting the Ward 1 by-election — which saw Wayne Olson elected to council to fill the seat of the late Mike Ciolfi — was no small feat.
“Having just watched the American election process, I think the importance of having impartial, dedicated staff to run a free and fair election has been clearly reinforced,” Cribbs said.
What Pelham did was hard, somewhat scary, and had not been done before
“What impressed me the most was that Nancy Bozzato was able to work as an equal with clerks from far larger municipalities, and be at least as much help to them as they were to her. Pelham isn’t the only municipality in Ontario that needed to run a by-election, but it did get there first, and had fewer resources with which to do it. This is a great example of the Town punching above its weight.”
Almost 1,200 Ward 1 residents voted in the by-election, a solid turnout given the circumstances.
“What Pelham did was hard, somewhat scary, and had not been done before,” Cribbs said. “Luckily for Windsor and Ottawa, they could learn from our successful example.”
As far as the community centre goes, its presence as a Town revenue stream turned out to be crucial in a year that saw so much financial upheaval. Cribbs said approximately 20,000 people per month passed through the doors of the facility when it was allowed to be open during the pandemic, all while health and safety measures had to be enforced.
“[The previous town council] deserves part of this accolade because of its vision and capacity for what could be achieved, while the current council has both helped cut costs and invested resources, which enabled the MCC to thrive, even in a pandemic,” the CAO said. “The MCC, the staff and Ms. van Ravenswaay as its leader deserve to be in the spotlight because they have maximized the building’s potential, and expanded its appeal well beyond use for sport. The fact that the MCC hosts seniors’ events, music nights, comedy nights, private functions and assorted cultural opportunities means that there is truly something there for everyone.”
The spotlighting of Bozzato and van Ravenswaay joins industry awards bestowed on Communications and Public Relations Specialist Marc MacDonald and the Town’s communications staff last year for their work on pandemic messaging.
“The tie that binds these two celebratory articles is that they focus upon Town departments led by strong women who bring out the best in their staff in addition to possessing years of experience and good judgment,” Cribbs added. “2020 was obviously a bad year for the entire planet, but hardship can also inspire brilliance.”