Pincher Creek council recognizes employees’ distinguished service

·4 min read

Time has a habit of moving along faster than many of us anticipate. Can you remember what you were doing 10, 15 or 20 years ago?

For three local residents, each of those time lengths has one common element: starting a job with the Town of Pincher Creek.

Town council celebrated the years of service offered by Michael Whittington, Wendy Catonio and Hilary Matheson during the April 12 council meeting.

The awards were initially meant to be handed out last year in honour of each individual reaching the milestone in 2020. With the pandemic, however, the celebration was delayed.

Taking time to recognize the significant work employees do behind the scenes, said Mayor Don Anderberg, was a major motivation in presenting the three awards.

“We don’t do that often enough. We do appreciate you, and all the people who work with us, even though we don’t express it near as much as we should,” the mayor said.

Michael Whittington, 10 years

Working at the hockey rink before being transferred to operations, Michael says his time as a town employee has been a positive experience.

“I can’t complain; there’s been a lot of good days,” he says.

“I will admit that working in the summer is more enjoyable than working in the winter is,” he adds with a laugh. “I like being outdoors a little bit more than being stuck inside a piece of equipment if I can, but you gotta do what you gotta do to get the job done.”

Weather aside, Michael says sometimes communication and public expectations for work scheduling are additional challenges.

“Everybody has their opinion on what the town is and what they see it as,” he says. “Some days you do your job and people expect more from you, even when you’re not supposed to be doing other things.”

The town, said Mayor Anderberg, has benefited from Michael’s well-rounded equipment operating skills and from his sense of dedication.

“For all those fun times you may not be wanting to do those tasks, especially on long weekends or Sunday nights when you have to come in and help us out and leave your family, you get out there and do the job,” he said. “Thank you for that.”

Wendy Catonio, 15 years

Initially hired for a temporary position, Wendy says becoming the town’s director of finances has been incredibly rewarding.

“It’s been great! I’ve really enjoyed working here,” she says. “The people that I work with are great to work with, and it’s always interesting, which is nice in a job, because you have councils changing. It doesn’t ever really get mundane.”

Of course, the worldwide pandemic has brought additional challenges to an already demanding responsibility of keeping tabs on the town’s finances.

“You have to weigh between what the community wants and what they’re willing to pay for,” Wendy says. “It’s a balancing act, and it’s council’s decision in the end. It’s nice to have all this stuff, but we have to pay for it in the end.”

“In government, things don’t always happen overnight — sometimes not as quick as you’d like, and sometimes things happen a lot quicker than you’d like,” she continues. “That can be challenging, but it keeps it interesting.”

Wendy’s work with administration, said chief administrative officer Laurie Wilgosh, is a huge advantage to the community.

“I can’t sing Wendy’s praises enough,” she said. “This organization is really lucky to have her, and every day I’m thankful to have her on our team.”

Hilary Matheson, 20 years

Many Pincher Creek residents have taken advantage of fitness classes provided by the town, which Hilary has taught for the past two decades.

While public health orders have restricted the number of classes run this past year, Hilary says outdoor classes might be a viable option once the weather becomes warm again. When permissible, Hilary says she expects to see the class return in full force.

“Our class doesn’t have the drop-off that a lot of fitness programs do,” she says. “They say most programs drop over 60 per cent over time, and that’s because it’s work — it’s effort, it’s consistency, and that’s difficult for a lot of people.”

The best part of the class, she adds, is the support outside the gym.

“I’ve really learned to appreciate the community that has formed with people who do fitness,” Hilary shares. “They really are there for each other, as well as for fitness, and that’s a really positive thing. We’ve gotten each other through lots of difficult stages in life, and that’s been really good.”

On top of teaching exercise programs, Hilary has always been an active volunteer in community recreation, including serving on committees, track events, and helping with the ag society.

“That’s a big job in itself,” said Mayor Anderberg. “There’s a lot of programming in Pincher, and they need leadership there and some direction and you’ve been providing that for many, many years in our community. We appreciate all that you do and hopefully you carry on.”

Congratulations again to Michael, Wendy and Hilary!

Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze