Multicultural association's director set to retire in June

The Multicultural Association of Sussex took a year to focus on its core missions and prepare for future growth, its executive director said.

And as part of that growth, she says it's time for someone else to take over.

Bridget Ryan, who was appointed as director of MAS in January of 2023, is leaving at the end of June, Sussex council heard at their meeting Monday.

Deputy Mayor Tim Wilson told council that Harriet Taylor has been selected as her replacement and will train alongside Ryan until June 29th.

Ryan, a former town councillor, said that when she took the position, she was clear about her end date, because it coincided with her retirement from Anglophone School District South, where she has been on a leave of absence.

"I feel good. I had some specific things to do when I was hired here," she said.

She said the organization had experienced "quick growth," from having just 69 clients in 2018, and said it "needed to stop" and make sure the foundation was solid.

"What my time here was about was coming back in, making sure we're doing all the things really tight ... so we can grow again," she said. "But I was clear with the board, I'm not the grower."

MAS offers settlement advisors for newcomers who have just arrived in the region, as well as offers a number of educational classes, including language training. Ryan said their number of clients is now around 600, with as many as 252 clients registering in a single fiscal year.

Wilson, also a member of the MAS board, told Brunswick News she's been "very effective" as executive director.

"She kind of took us back to our core goals, she's been very good that way," he said. "The board gets along very well with her and we have certainly appreciated her service."

Also at the meeting Monday, council voted to provide MAS with a $5,000 sponsorship, up from $1,000 last year. Mayor Marc Thorne told Brunswick News that Ryan had asked for $20,000, and the town had forwarded that request to the Kings Regional Service Commission, which declined.

"We wanted to make sure that we were supportive of MAS irrespective of what decision the board may make," Thorne said, saying that $5,000 represents the money they had set aside for the request if approved.

Ryan said that "any money is better than no money" and that the funding they did get shows the town recognizes their impact. She said that MAS does have a regional service area, and that newcomer settlement is part of the RSC's mandate.

She said that the funding they did get will help address MAS's organizational needs, since funding grants often are tied directly to projects and can't be used on things like paper or raises for tenured staffers.

While the organization is "bursting at the seams" of its Main Street location, a planned move proved too expensive, Ryan said. She said it was important for the organization to remain downtown and visible.

She said provincial and federal funding has allowed them to expand the settlement team from 1.5 positions to 3 positions, who serve as a first point of contact for newcomers. Wilson said they help them with things like opening bank accounts, putting kids in school, and other tasks.

Ryan said MAS "is in such a great position right now," with solid policies, a strong team and a good financial position.

"I feel that it's in a good position for the next ED to come in, she's got some great vision and she's going to create some partnerships ... it's what needs to happen next," Ryan said.

Her replacement, Harriet Taylor, had a "very strong resume," including with the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design. Her combination of a business background and creative skills is "important" and while she's new to the newcomer sector, it "won't take her long" to acclimatize, Ryan said.

"She's really excited to be working in Sussex, she's been living here for the last few years," Ryan said. "She's excited to have the opportunity to meet people and have those connections here in town."

Wilson said Taylor "seems very gung-ho" and has experience managing large organizations.

"She's looking forward to the job, so we really think we're very fortunate that we found her," he said.

Ryan will stay on through MAS' Diversifest on June 22, which is a street party featuring a stage show on Main Street with acts from different cultures as well as booths for members of the community to showcase food or art from their own culture.

"We really want to highlight our newcomers in the community and have the residents of Sussex to ... share a little bit of that culture with them," Ryan said, saying last year was "fun, it was hot."

Ryan said her time in the office was "a lot more stressful" than she first understood but she thought "it was great, I loved meeting new people."

"I could have coasted through on the job I was doing for 14 years, but I thought ... I should do something I'm really passionate about," she said.

She said she'll be working on a "side gig" doing intercultural competency training for employers.

Ryan describes MAS a place of "friendship" for those facing the "daunting" task of moving to a new area.

"When you're moving across the world with your family ... it's really nice to have a spot where people are welcoming," she said.

She said seeing MAS hire people who were once newcomers is great, as well as seeing people transition away because they've created their own communities elsewhere.

"I do feel proud," she said, saying the success is measured on whether newcomers stay and make Sussex their home.

"I think MAS has been very effective in the community and I think one of the reasons Sussex is thriving is because of the MAS organization," Wilson said. "It's one of the pillars that has helped, when you look at Sussex, it's certainly on a growth path."

Andrew Bates, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal