New managers take over parks and recreation

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Matt Gardner
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The City of Prince Albert has formally announced the appointment of two new hires to senior positions in the Community Services Department.

Derek Blais officially became the city's new recreation manager on June 16.

Derek Blais has been hired as the city’s new recreation manager, while Alissa Baker is the new parks manager. Both began working in their new positions on June 16.

Community services director Jody Boulet played a key role in the selection of Blais and Baker, each of whom boasts a fairly extensive résumé.

“It was kind of a trio (of factors) on my end that really led to the decision -- education, experience and some things that they wanted to achieve personally in their own lives that connected them to Prince Albert which really made it a natural fit,” Boulet said.

The parks management position encompasses oversight of maintenance operations in all parks and open spaces within the Prince Albert area including Little Red River Park, as well as the management of capital projects each year.

Meanwhile, the recreation manager is responsible for overseeing the city’s various recreation programs and facilities such as the Arts Centre, museums and the Alfred Jenkins Field House, working directly with 10 community clubs and overseeing services such as the annual summer playground program or after-school activities.

Boulet noted that Blais and Baker each had extensive municipal-level experience as well as a history in the private sector.

“Both fairly being at the early stages of their career … we’re hoping that they become long-term fits for the community and we really look forward to it -- serving as some stability on our senior management team,” Boulet said.

One of the attractions for Blais was the chance to return back to Saskatchewan near his old hometown.

Born and raised in Debden and holding a bachelor of applied science and entrepreneurship from Mount Royal University, for seven years Blais worked with Hockey Canada in Calgary.

Initially a co-ordinator for the men’s national teams, more recently Blais served as manager of hockey operations, managing the day-to-day operations for the gold medal-winning men’s hockey team at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

“He had some experience right across Canada with the sport of hockey … and a lot of those management skills we saw as a natural fit here back in Prince Albert,” Boulet said, noting that the close connections of Blais to the area were another attraction for the city.

For Blais, his appointment as recreations manager marked the fulfillment of a longstanding ambition.

It was kind of a trio (of factors) ... that really led to the decision -- education, experience and some things that they wanted to achieve personally in their own lives that connected them to Prince Albert. Jody Boulet

“I’m very familiar with the city of P.A., and with my degree I’ve always wanted to kind of be a rec director,” Blais said. “It was a chance to kind of jump into that role … so I applied for it and interviewed and here I am.”

Turning his attention to the details of his new job, Blais noted that he will begin his work in Prince Albert with a strong foundation to build on.

“I think the city’s got some excellent facilities to work with and some unbelievable programming and whatnot,” he said. “So it’s just a matter of maintaining what we have … moving ahead into the future and just remaining innovative, I guess, with our programming and making sure that we’re fulfilling the city’s needs.”

Meanwhile, Baker holds a bachelor of environmental design from the University of Manitoba and a master’s of landscape architecture from the University of British Columbia.

With 10 years’ combined experience working with municipal governments in landscape design and park management, she most recently served as an urban designer for CIVITAS Urban Design and Planning in Vancouver.

“When we were able to sit down with her and go through some of her previous experience and interview some of the qualities that she brought to the table, it also turned out to be a natural fit,” Boulet said.

The new parks manager for Prince Albert described a feeling of excitement at the chance to work in municipal government again.

For the moment, Baker is busy familiarizing herself with the existing policies and maintenance procedures for the local park system.

“I’m really looking forward to working with the community to continue doing a good job of managing our parks system and making sure that we have a really high quality moving forward,” she said.

“One of the first things that I noticed coming to Prince Albert is that there are so many great amenities in the park system,” she added. “So I think the city as a whole is really lucky to have access to that … I want to keep it going and move forward, work with the community to really ensure that we continue having these amenities available.”

Organizations: Prince Albert, Arts Centre, Alfred Jenkins Field House Mount Royal University Hockey Canada University of Manitoba University of British Columbia CIVITAS

Geographic location: Little Red River Park, Saskatchewan, Debden Calgary Canada Vancouver

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