BY ERIN FAWCETT
City of Lacombe’s Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Norma MacQuarrie will be leaving her post next spring.
MacQuarrie will retire on March 23rd after 35 years of municipal service including her current tenure as the senior administrator for the City of Lacombe. She has been with the City for more than five years now.
“It’s a new chapter in life and I think it’s a chapter that we work towards for a lifetime and it presents opportunities that you can’t pursue when you are working,” she said. “It has been my privilege to work with council and a team of employees who over the past six years continually worked hard to make our City a healthy, safe and welcoming place for all through the delivery of high quality programs and services. It is abundantly clear to me that success culminates from the team’s collective talents and contributions, and I cannot think of another group of people who I would rather end my municipal career with.”
MacQuarrie, who is originally from Ontario, had an interest in municipal government from an early age. “I started my career in municipal government in Ontario in my youth. I worked as a playground supervisor in my youth as a summer job,” she said. “I was always a very avid participant in various recreation activities and it fit very well for me to accept a job of that nature.”
MacQuarrie attended Seneca College in Toronto where she completed her recreation diploma. She also later completed her executive MBA from Athabasca University in 1999.
“I started on the community services side and I worked in programming positions through to directorships on the community services side,” she said. “I had a personal passion for recreation, for community development and recognizing that it is crucial to our municipalities. I followed my passion and that led me to start to evolve and grow and become more familiar with other aspects of municipal government and I gradually assumed more responsibility as I changed jobs.”
MacQuarrie has helmed the City through a very busy and productive period in Lacombe, with significant investment in civic infrastructure, governance frameworks and municipal programs and services. She has overseen a wide variety of projects including the completion of the Hwy. 2A upgrades and 34th Street improvements; the City of Lacombe corporate branding project; the inception of a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) department; the creation of City of Lacombe Strategic Plan and strategic planning process; the introduction of a 10-Year Capital Plan; establishing a Recreation and Culture Master Plan and Greenspace Management Plan; the Fairview Cemetery expansion; the development and adoption of a corporate communications and marketing plan and much more.
“When I think of highlights the things that most impress me are the people I work with and the way those people have evolved and developed. Certainly over the years I have been involved with building buildings to introducing programs and services but it’s really watching people and serving as a mentor and coach to people to where they become confident in their abilities and that is probably one of the more rewarding aspects of the job.
“Another rewarding aspect will be that oftentimes people bring issues to you and you have the opportunity to work with them on those. That is something that I will miss – being able to collaboratively work through, in some cases significant issues, and bring them to resolution and see the benefit that is derived from that by the community and by the people involved.”
As for Lacombe as a community, MacQuarrie said there is much to love about the City.
“There are a number of things that I enjoy about Lacombe, not the least of which the people that I am surrounded by and the desire of those people to continuously learn and move forward,” she said. “Lacombe has done an exceptional job of preserving the heritage in the community. Other municipalities in Alberta certainly look to Lacombe to share information on our Heritage Management Program. Lacombe really stands out in Alberta in that respect.
“I like that there has been a conscious effort to preserve green space in this community and to recognize the value that green space and natural spaces bring to the community. There is a real push now to ensure our trail system is a connected network recognizing these are the features that are going to attract people to live in this community.”
MacQuarrie was also recently recognized by the Canadian Association of Municipal Administrators (CAMA) with a Long Service Award, acknowledging 25 years of service in a senior management role in municipal government. The award celebrates her dedication to public service and commitment to excellence in municipal management and for helping to improve the municipal profession.
“There have always been new challenges and I think the old adage that everyday is different really applies to this particular role,” she said.
Meanwhile, looking ahead to next year, MacQuarrie said she plans on taking some time after she retires to travel. She does plan to reside in Lacombe and looks forward to staying involved in the community in some capacity.