New deputy fire chief to recruit more diverse and inclusive force

·2 min read

Strathmore has moved to make its fire department more diverse and inclusive by hiring a deputy fire chief to a new recruitment position.

Laurie VandeSchoot, the town’s new assistant chief of diversity, inclusion and recruiting, was introduced during the regular Strathmore town council meeting on Nov. 18. VandeSchoot is a municipal government, change management and strategic planning specialist with a 28-year career with the City of Calgary who also consults internationally and locally and instructs at Bow Valley College in Calgary.

“Laurie is known for building inclusive and high-performance cultures that strengthens communities,” said Judy Unsworth, Strathmore Fire Department deputy chief, during the meeting. VandeSchoot has experience in diversity services, equity solutions, mental health, public participation, strategic planning and sustainable development, said Unsworth.

Furthermore, VandeSchoot leads the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) diversity leadership program, chairs the International Fire Chiefs human relations committee, and is the national co-chair of the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs (CAFC) national subcommittee on diversity inclusion, among other leadership roles.

“Under the direction of chief (Trent) West, I am super excited about what we can do here in Strathmore,” said VandeSchoot. “I’m passionate, as you can tell, about diversity and inclusion – it’s kind of my lifeblood. When we talk about diversity, inclusion and recruitment, diversity and inclusion is our purpose, recruitment is where we start from.”

Diversity is about more than numbers, she added. “It’s not just about how many people you have that are different, it’s about that sense of belonging, it’s about that sense of inclusion and how we can create a culture of openness, belonging and wellness.”

The hiring of VandeSchoot highlights the importance of welcoming all people to Strathmore’s community and environment, said Strathmore town Councillor Denise Peterson. “It shows that we’re not just saying these things, that we’re actually taking action to embrace inclusion and to break down those barriers that we’ve seen.”

Peterson added the position will help develop partnerships with Siksika Nation.

Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times