Robert Lilbourne, CIT, RRFA
Municipality of Strathroy-Caradoc, Director, Parks and Recreation

Please list up to three of your most memorable career-related experiences.

Strathroy-Caradoc is located along HWY 402 between Sarnia and London. This stretch of HWY has been closed due to poor road conditions during the winter months several times in the last few years.

During the winter of 2014 this section of HWY was closed for several hours stranding many motorists. The Department was contacted by our local police in the early evening hours of February 14 notifying us that we maybe requested to open up the Gemini Sportsplex as a reception centre for those motorist who were not able to get home due to the road closures. As a designated Reception Centre for emergencies the facility is stocked with cots, medical supplies, blankets etc.....

On this particular evening the Reception Centre was activated shortly before 10pm and it housed over 70 people from individuals to families who have been waiting out the storm at local establishments such Tim Horton's, Restaurants since the early afternoon etc.

Staff worked setting up cots, distributing blankets, opening the concession for those people who required food, working with local police and the OPP providing updates to the motorists.

All the stranded the motorist were on their way home by noon the next day.

This was one of those moments in your career where you realize that being a public servant means your job does not have an end time.

What would you describe as some of the most significant workplace and/or industry challenges you have faced over the past five years?

Aging Recreation Infrastructure - Continuing to try and obtain the funds to maintain the facilities that the community has come to enjoy and in some parts become the hub of the community.

Escalating Operating Costs - Finding ways to reduce operating costs through Energy Conservation and best practice to lessen the burden on the Taxpayer.

Regulatory Changes - Keeping up to date on the various legislative and regulatory changes from agencies like the Ministry of Labour, Electrical Safety Authority, SOCAN and the list goes on.

How has your involvement with the ORFA affected your career?

My involvement with the ORFA goes back to my College Days when the ORFA presented awards to college students. I was one of the students who received one of those awards. My goal as a young graduate in 1991 was to become get a position within the Recreation field, specifically in Facilities. I saw my involvement with the ORFA as an important step towards my career goal at that time.

As time went on I would attend ORFA Professional Development Training Programs providing me with the skills and making myself more marketable. I became board member in 2001 and eventually a Past President of the Association in 2010.

I started out my career as a Rink Rat and gradually worked my way through the system to a operator, supervisor and to eventually a Director. I strongly feel that my experience gained through the courses offered by the ORFA and the confidence gained as being a board member has no doubt aided me in obtaining my goals and help me become successful in my career.

List any best practices or tips learned at an ORFA professional development opportunity.

There are so many that could be mentioned here, but the one that stands our for me is the Head Protection for Arena Workers. I was on the board when this recommendation was presented and I understand that at the time it was a change in how the sector looked at protection for the Arena Worker and initially was not well received. I would hear comments like "we look stupid", "people are going to laugh at us" etc.... My response to that was always, I would rather you be laughed at then get hurt and I have to contact your spouse or parent and inform them you are in the hospital because you hit your head or even worse died.

For those people who still feel this way, I can honestly say that the requirement for staff to wear head protection when working on the ice surface has saved me from making that call to a spouse. We did have an employee who slipped on the ice while performing maintenance hit there head significantly enough to produce a concussion. If this employee did not have their helmet on the situation could of been much more severe.

What advice would you provide to colleagues considering teaching or mentoring within the industry?

Never stop learning, take the time to speak with our sector leaders and volunteer to sit on a committee or put your name forward to be a board member.

I have been involved in the industry for over 30 years and I am still learning and being mentored today. Being a leader you must be able to give a person a reputation to live up to. If you want to be teacher or mentor you must be willing to be taught and mentored.

Many of the individuals who I look up to today and the past continue to give back to our sector by being involved in the ORFA, by either being on the board, or assisting the Association by being a member of an advisory committee or instructing one the courses offered by the ORFA.

Final Thoughts

I mentioned earlier that the ORFA has provided me with many of tools needed for me to be successful in my career.

Those tools were not given to me, but rather I had to go out and work to gather them. This was done by attending and participating at the ORFA Annual Professional Development Program, volunteering on committees within the Association and by sitting on the Board of Directors.

The ORFA is only as strong as its members. You are the members. I strongly encourage you to get involved in the association and be a driver for the future.

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