Eganville – Leanne Panke has long encouraged others to run for municipal politics and make a difference in their community, so when the time seemed right in her life, she has decided to run as mayor in her home community of Bonnechere Valley.
“I have encouraged friends, family over the years to run in their municipalities and Pikwakanagan and now is the time for myself to represent the people I have grown up with, young and old, which I also have the utmost respect for,” she said. “And I am looking forward to meeting the new residents and families of Bonnechere Valley Township through my meet and greets.”
She has hit the ground running with her campaign, with her first “meet and greet” planned for this Saturday, September 3, at the Eganville Legion from 12-3. This was rescheduled from the event which she originally had planned on holding at the Splash Pad. Two other events will be held during the campaign period in other hamlets within the township.
Although she is new to the world of politics, with a diverse background in the community, she feels she would be an asset to the municipality as mayor.
“I believe with the knowledge, the education, the love of working with people and the skills I have attained throughout my working years in health care, business and through volunteering in this community, I can do the mayor role,” she said.
The daughter of Jackie Panke of Golden Lake and the late Dianne (Ring), she has three brothers and grew up living in various locations including Killaloe, Bissett Creek and Golden Lake as the family moved with her father’s employment with CN Railway as a foreman. In her adult years she has resided in the township, as well as in Whitney. Professionally she has worked in the health care sector for 32 years through home care with the Canadian Red Cross and in long-term care settings – Groves Park Lodge and Four Seasons Lodge - as well as three area hospitals – Renfrew Victoria, St. Francis Memorial and Deep River and District Hospital, always working two sites at once. She has worked as a PSW and then moved to recreational programming, with her education attained as a Registered Recreational Therapist with Therapeutic Recreation Ontario.
“During these 32 years I have partnered with, communicated with and bargained with two hospital unions to add the status of recreational therapist, along with education requirements, assessments, policies and procedures to the hospitals,” she said.
Her knowledge of the accreditation process and her years working in hospital settings and sitting on committees has enhanced her abilities to speak up, engage, communicate and most importantly assess the needs of people and services, she feels.
“The health and wellness of staff was always a priority to me and I was the lead for many years at St. Francis Memorial Hospital, with an excellent staff committee, working on increasing morale, having fun and creating worklife memories to enhance lives,” she said. “At Deep River and District Hospital, I was able to unify management and staff to enjoy recreational functions together, creating and increasing a positive work life.”
As a volunteer, she has been involved in Eganville minor ball and also the Upper Ottawa Valley Girls Hockey League, as well as advocating for swimming lessons in BV and North Algona Wilberforce. She was also on the board of directors at Wise Owl Day Care and was a member of the council at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Germanicus and volunteered at the St. Anne’s Pilgrimage in Cormac.
Ms. Panke also was the owner of a small business for 11 years doing signs and graphics work, which included bookkeeping and client relations.
As she has been preparing to campaign, she has become aware of some issues she would like to see dealt with in BV. In Sebastopol, the Heritage Park requires public washrooms and there could also be a building or roof covering the cement pad, she said.
“The highest point lookout requires a larger viewing area and seating area,” she said.
To accomplish goals in both these communities, she would want to involve a committee of community members, she added.
Drawing on her recreation background, Ms. Panke would like to see staff of the township enjoy participating in a softball tournament with all municipalities in Renfrew County. This would create a positive work environment with staff enjoying recreational activities together, she believes.
“I have a plan to reinvigorate the hamlet of Foymount utilizing my knowledge of the people and partnering with our neighbouring municipalities – Brudenell, Lyndoch and Raglan, Killaloe, Hagarty and Richards and that of Renfrew County – if voted in as mayor,” she said.
As she campaigns throughout the township, she said this would not be possible without her supportive family. She and her partner Peter Chapeskie have three children. The couple are also enjoying spending time on the south shore of Golden Lake in the township where they plan on building their new home.
Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader