Where to begin.
It’s hard to believe my time with this team is coming to a close. It has been both a pleasure and a privilege to have worked alongside all of you, and to have had your trust in my leadership over these past six years. For this, I wish to extend my heartfelt thanks.
When thinking back over my time here, we have achieved a lot, and created lasting legacies.
Our cityscape has changed dramatically and only continues to evolve. From the transformation of Argyle and Grafton Streets, to the reimagination of Spring Garden Road, to the redevelopment of the Cogswell District – we are thoughtfully designing more vibrant, people-focused public spaces for today, tomorrow and into the future.
We have also stayed focused on how we can best support our residents and build safe communities, including responding to the growing concern of housing insecurity and advancing affordable housing initiatives, like the Akoma Project.
We continue to action the Integrated Mobility Program creating connected, healthy, affordable and sustainable travel options for residents. As part of this, we have improved transit connections and infrastructure to meet the demands of our growing region in a sustainable, reliable way.
On the environment front, we are tackling climate change head-on through HalifACT: Acting on Climate Together, one of the most ambitious climate action movements in Canada. As well, we continue to seek opportunities to preserve and maintain diverse wilderness areas for future generations, like the proposed Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes Regional Park.
Countless retrofits, renovations and relocations of our municipal buildings and offices have positioned us for future growth by promoting more collaborative, modern and accessible work environments.
As well, we have cultivated our commitment to diversity, inclusion and equity, and to providing an engaging, healthy and safe work environment. These efforts, along with many others, have led us to be recognized as one of Nova Scotia’s top employers for 2022, establishing the municipality as an employer of choice in Atlantic Canada and beyond.
Of course, we’ve also encountered the unimaginable, navigating the uncharted waters of a global pandemic that challenged both our professional and personal lives. I admire and appreciate your collaboration, adaptability and resiliency during these difficult times.
The accomplishments outlined above are only a fraction of what we have achieved together – and it should be noted that they did not happen easily or by chance. They happened despite challenges, criticisms and delays. They happened because dedicated, passionate, resourceful and talented employees made them happen.
I am grateful to each of you for your ongoing efforts on behalf of our residents and one another, and I want you to know your contributions are sincerely appreciated. I have great admiration for the impact you have had, not only on our wonderful municipality, but on my life personally.
Although I am not originally from here, I think I can now officially say I feel like a bona fide Haligonian. Thank you for making these last six years some of the most memorable of my life.
Wela’lioq, amitiés, kind regards,
Recently, Shannon and the team were honoured with three national awards from Canada’s Clean50 for their leadership in sustainability and ongoing work on HaliACT. Read on to learn more about Shannon's career and the background that led to these honours.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your role at the municipality.
I’ve always had a deep love, respect and appreciation for our natural world and believe that our connection to nature is what compels us to care for it. This belief drives me in my work every day.
After completing two bachelor’s degrees and a master’s in environmental studies, I worked for five years in environmental consulting before entering public service. My grandfather was a long-time public servant, and I remember his stories about the critical role and value of his work. I understand what he meant now more than ever.
This December, I will have been with the municipality for 13 years. I have to pinch myself when I think about the progress we’ve made since I joined the organization, when I was one of just two climate-focused employees. Fast-forward to today and I am honoured to be leading a team of 15, growing by another six before spring.
Can you share a brief overview of HalifACT and the project’s progression to get to where it stands today?
Work was already underway to develop HalifACT when Regional Council declared a climate emergency in January 2019. Hurricane Dorian, other extreme weather events and the largest youth-led climate strike in Halifax compounded the opportunity we had to deliver an ambitious climate plan for the region.
Together with consultants and a collaborative team from across the organization, we convened a large network of internal and external stakeholders. This collaboration resulted in the net-zero by 2050 target, accompanied by clear paths forward to address mitigation and adaptation priorities.
In June 2020, Regional Council unanimously approved HalifACT, only a few months into the COVID-19 pandemic. The first annual HalifACT update report was advanced to Regional Council, along with a four-year capital plan and a three-year resource plan to help us meet our 2030 and 2050 goals.
Ultimately, as part of the 2022/23 municipal budget, Regional Council committed a long-term investment in climate action by approving a dedicated portion of property taxes to enable the work.
Among other honours, HalifACT was also voted Clean50 Top Project of the Year this October, which recognizes the significant level of community support and engagement we received, as well as Regional Council’s bold decision to invest in climate action despite uncertain economic times.
What type of leadership qualities does it take to succeed in your role?
My goals as a leader are to be brave in my decisions and actions, be grateful and humble, and to prioritize my team, which means trusting, celebrating and growing them in the ways they want to grow. I’m working on the art of ‘letting go’, as our team has grown to a point where I can no longer be involved in every detail. This is a huge transition, but the trust I have, and will always have, in my team enables me to do this, slowly but surely.
As a leader, I strive to emulate that which I prioritize, which is the health and wellness of my team. For example, I shouldn’t be emailing outside of work hours on nights and weekends if I expect my team to have work-life balance.
My former mentor always told me to stop apologizing and to figure out how to have a large presence in a room, given my small stature. I think this boils down to being confident in my abilities and the fact that I am doing important work.
I can’t wait to see how far we go in the decades to come.
It was a misty October morning but that didn’t deter the children who eagerly stopped by the grand opening of the municipality’s new Jumpstart Inclusive Playground.
Located at the George Dixon Centre Park on Gottingen and Brunswick Streets, the over 11,000 sq. ft. play area enables kids of all ages and abilities to play together.
“The playground is more than just a playground for this community,” explains Shawna Shirley, Area Manager at the George Dixon Community Recreation Centre. “It is a gathering place for all. It allows children from all walks of life to experience play in an inclusive and welcoming space.”
With support and funding from the Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities and local Canadian Tire Dealers, the Jumpstart Inclusive Playground is the first of its kind in the province and has been thoughtfully designed to accommodate physical, cognitive and sensory considerations.
“Working with the Jumpstart team was rewarding,” says Jeff Spares, Manager, Parks Capital Projects and project manager for the playground. “The topography of the site was challenging, which required significant collaboration to design a solution to accommodate the playground and accessible walkway connections to the street, parking lot and community recreation centre.”
The fully inclusive playground supports the municipality’s Accessibility Strategy, approved by Regional Council in 2021.
“We are thrilled to see the excitement of the children who live in this historically marginalized neighbourhood enjoying a truly world-class facility,” says Shawna. “Thanks to the inclusivity of this playground, they are able to share this experience with all of their friends and neighbours.”
Kudos to Parks & Recreation and all partners involved in this community project. Special acknowledgement goes to the following divisions and employees:
- Recreation Programming – Mookie Magloir and Shawna Shirley
- Strategic Planning & Design – Jeff Spares, Alex Quinn, Tom Jangaard, Adrian Meisner and Nalini Naidoo
- Parks – Ray Walsh and Chris Poole
A graduation ceremony on October 21 celebrated the achievements of five employees who demonstrated their commitment to Performance Excellence by completing the municipality’s Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Certification Program.
The certification program, offered through the Corporate Planning & Performance team, was created specifically for municipal employees based on Lean Six Sigma principles, which aim to help improve the quality or value of a product or service, guided by the ‘voice of the customer’.
Over the course of two years, each graduate completed eight days of in-class training, an exam with a minimum pass mark of 80 per cent and an improvement project, putting into action the define-measure-analyze-improve-control methodology taught throughout the program.
Employees can visit the intranet to explore Performance Excellence online learning opportunities, including Performance Excellence awareness training. For information about upcoming Lean Six Sigma training opportunities, please email PerformanceExcellence@halifax.ca.
Congratulations to the graduates of the Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Certification Program. See below for the names and project titles of each graduate.
Not pictured: Graduate John Kleronomos, Manager of Strategy and Portfolio, Information Technology, was absent from the graduation ceremony.
Pictured: The Corporate Planning & Performance team, the program organizers (left to right): Chris Anstey, Matthew Smith, Oluyomi Adeoye, Jacqueline Pepper, Harjot Dod, Michael Pappas
Behind the camera: Chantal Davis
Tracy Burns-Gagnon, Community Recreation Coordinator at the Gordon R. Snow Community Centre in Fall River, was recently awarded the HIGH FIVE Trainer Excellence Award at this year’s Recreation Nova Scotia Conference.
The HIGH FIVE training program provides participants with a nationally recognized certification that assists them in working with children's programs in the sports and recreation industry.
“The training focuses on the principles of healthy child development. These include having a caring leader and providing opportunities to make friends, master skills, participate and play,” explains Tracy. “I like to reiterate the impact and influence that a caring leader can have in a child’s life. I believe this is the key message and one that I instill in my all my staff.”
Tracy’s award recognizes her sustained commitment to training excellence, development and delivery. Over her 18 years as a trainer, Tracy has delivered 31 HIGH FIVE workshops throughout the region and uses her skills to equip her Community Recreation team with the tools to help them create quality child-centred programs, ensuring children have the best way to play.
She encourages her recreation colleagues to consider participating in the program. “It’s an excellent way to connect with new staff and ensure they complete training that supports and values recreation and leisure opportunities for children.”
We recently caught up with Stefan Hohn, Project Manager, Halifax Transit, to discuss his career progression.
Tell us about your role and work history at the municipality?
I started with the municipality as a summer intern with Construction Services while enrolled in the Civil Engineering Technology program at Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC). I was hired full time as a Traffic Analyst with Traffic Services after graduation in 2015 and then moved to an Engineering Technologist 1 role with Development Engineering in 2021. My current position as Project Manager with Transit Infrastructure began in August 2022.
Before coming to the municipality, I worked for Via Rail, was a custom furniture and cabinet maker, taught English in several countries, and completed a degree in photography at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD).
I am always interested in new challenges. When the Project Manager opportunity with Transit came along, I met with staff to get a better idea about the position and how my experience and skills might fit. Those discussions convinced me that I could be a valuable addition to the great team here, while embracing a whole new set of challenges.
What transferable skills have you strengthened or developed throughout your time at the municipality?
I think even more than any technical knowledge or skills gained, learning and understanding processes used within different business units can help reveal strengths, weaknesses and gaps in knowledge or procedures. Seeing how other business units and staff approach and overcome similar issues can be quite revealing. If we remain open to change and fresh ideas this can be very valuable.
How has working across various business units over the years inspired you to continue to make a difference?
Engaged employees who feel valued and supported are any organization’s best asset. We all experience difficulties and frustrations at work every day. Staff supporting each other is probably my biggest take-away, and I hope I’ve been able to help others the way I’ve been helped along my journey. Working for different business units has confirmed how interconnected we all are at the municipality. Seeing those staff relationships and interactions leveraged successfully to provide better service to residents is inspiring. Maintaining relationships with colleagues I’ve worked with along the way is probably what I enjoy most about my career.
What advice do you have for others looking to grow in their career with the municipality?
Explore every opportunity that interests you. When it comes to applying for new positions at the municipality, if it interests you, and you believe you would bring value to the position, then go for it. Sometimes we can underestimate the value that others may see in our skills and prior experiences.
Significant Dates Calendar
06 December 2022
06 December 2022
01 January 2023