Linda Stevens talks about her new role as Terrace Social Development Coordinator – Terrace Standard
Linda Stevens and her husband first passed through Terrace 30 years ago while on vacation. Charmed by the beauty of the landscapes of the region, the couple noticed how enviable the life of the inhabitants of the North West must be. Little did she know at the time that somewhere in the future she would herself have an enviable address in the northwest.
Two months ago, Stevens moved to Terrace as the city’s social development program coordinator, a new position to which she brings more than 30 years of experience. Stevens moved to northwestern British Columbia from Peace River, Alberta and worked in Ottawa and Kingston, Ontario in various community development roles.
Stevens (LS) addressed the Standard Terrace and shared his first impressions of the city, its journey and the plan for the future. Below is an edited excerpt from the conversation:
Q: Do you like living in Terrace, have you ever had the opportunity to explore the outdoors?
LS: My husband and I are downhill skiers. It’s right on our doorstep so it’s definitely lucky and I’ve hiked some of the trails. Not as much as I would like, but I hiked. You have everything at your fingertips. You can reach the coast in an hour and a half, you can reach the mountains in minutes. You know, everything is great here and it’s absolutely beautiful. And I have to say, as far as a community and feeling welcomed into a community, Terrace has been incredibly welcoming.
Q: Tell us about your background and how you started working in community development
LS: I started working in community development with community health in Ontario and fell in love with that kind of work because it’s about working with partnership communities and trying to bring people together to decide what needs to be done in the community and how to work collectively to get there. It was just the kind of work that was about social equity and justice and community health and looked at all the determinants of health and it’s just the kind of work that I felt very impactful in and I felt a lot of enthusiasm for this kind of work because I felt like a lot of the work was trying to solve problems before everything fell apart. So that’s kind of where I ended up working in this kind of field.
Q: So, given your background, this was a tailor-made job for you?
LS: I first saw the job description and was incredibly excited to read it before looking at where it was. And then I looked where it was, and it was interesting [Stevens’ daughter moved to Terrace a couple years ago]. I thought, that’s perfect. This is the type of job that got me so excited when I read the ad. My background, my experience, it was a perfect fit with what I wanted to do and what I wanted to do in my career.
Q: In your role as Social Development Coordinator What are some of the observations you have made so far?
LS: When I got to the job, my understanding of what the city was looking for was some of those things that have worked elsewhere. BC has a number of small towns that have social development programs in one way or another… And I think the difference is that a lot of the issues that Terrace is now facing are newer to Terrace than they are in other communities. In the other communities, we see some of the challenges earlier than Terrace, because Terrace, where it is located, is a bit behind in some things. And then the industry – there’s been a rapid growth of the industry – and other issues like mental health issues and the opioid poisoning crisis, kind of proliferated the whole thing… So, everything d Suddenly, Terrace was under a lot of pressure very quickly. Many leaks formed quickly. And they were trying to figure out how to stop those leaks while trying to tighten them up, which is hard for a community to put everything back together.
I was coming in with an understanding that there were tremendous pressures and I was kind of hearing this “nothing is done” narrative. And then I got to the community and started meeting with organizations and community members and city staff and found out there’s a lot going on in Terrace.
Terrace is an incredibly lucky community in that it has a lot of really passionate organizations that partner and work really well together. But they are tired and it shows when you meet organizations. You can feel the frustration within the business community and within organizations. Because when you’re trying to work so fast to plug those leaks, it’s exhausting because that’s where all your energy goes.
Q: Going forward, what are some of the projects you have in the pipeline?
LS: I am currently mapping the assets (community supports and services) that exist in Terrace. This is one of the key activities…first because we want to ensure that up-to-date and accurate information about what exists and where it is available to improve the quality of life and well-being of the citizens of Terrace to promote access to supports, services and opportunities. And second, because while there is a lot of work going on, there are growing needs and existing gaps in services and supports and we cannot prioritize and advocate for increased programs and resources. to fill these gaps and manage new and increased pressures without knowing more about the foundations on which we are building.
I’m really looking forward to 2022 and for the community to come together and continue to generate solutions together and talk about their priorities.