The mayor for Strathroy-Caradoc was honoured last week by Municipal World magazine and previous winners with the Women of Influence in Municipal Government Award.
Mayor Joanne Vanderheyden recently finished her year-long run as president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM). Her being on its board was cited in receiving the award, along with “building more inclusive communities” and “pushing the boundaries to ensure small and rural communities are recognized and effectively represented.”
Vanderheyden was thanked by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last month at the last national meeting as president for her service. She has been on the board representing Ontario since 2015, and stays on as past president. Taneen Rudyk, a councillor from Vegreville, Alberta, is the new president.
The experience gained from networking with municipal leader across the country was one of the reasons Vanderheyden sought the board position that led to her being president of the FCM.
“To lobby at the provincial and federal level gives you so much knowledge and opportunity to be in the know,” said Vanderheyden.
“It’s fascinating work because you’re dealing with the same issues everyone across the country is dealing with, and you get to sit at the table. I always say, if you’re not at the table somebody else is making decisions.”
The busy schedule at FCM and being mayor meant stepping back from her day job at Libro Credit Union.
What made it worth it along with the experience gained, according to Vanderheyden, was some of the work completed in a time of pandemic for communities smallest to largest, villages to cities of millions.
She listed some accomplishments during her tenure as the bigger centres getting more transportation money, municipalities from other provinces that rely on RCMP policing getter better contract deals, dealing with climate change including a green municipal fund for buildings, asset management to plan for the financial future of infrastructure, and the quest for more access to broadband internet.
Things Vanderheyden hopes to continue working on as a board member include climate, inclusivity, getting more infrastructure cash, public safety including rail crossings, the opioid crisis, and housing affordability and availability.
“The housing across the country, that’s one of the biggest issues. And it doesn’t matter what order of government’s responsible, it all lands on the seat of municipalities because we’re where everybody lives, works and plays. This is where the rubber hits the road, right here,” said Vanderheyden.
The mayor is seeking re-election this fall, and insisted her extra work lobbying with the FCM does not take away from her job in Strathroy-Caradoc.
“I was at my desk every day for the last two-and-a-half years except Sunday and Saturdays, so I can tell you it didn’t eek into my work here at all. I was just busier than usual, but I did retire from my… job at Libro so that opened up time,” said Vanderheyden.
“I thoroughly enjoyed my opportunity. Who gets to be the president of a national organization and get to represent Strathroy-Caradoc and Middlesex County on a national stage? It was absolutely incredible.”
Chris Gareau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Middlesex Banner