Kevin Gale, CIT, RRFS
Manager of Leisure Facilities, Town of Bradford West Gwillimbury

Share some of your most memorable career-related experiences.

I have had the sincere pleasure of working for a number of diverse municipalities over the years, and that has provided me with some pretty amazing memories. Living in the arctic certainly had its challenges, but also some tremendously rewarding experiences. I recall shortly after I arrived in Iqaluit how thrilling it was to be involved with the Grand Re-Opening of the Arctic Winter Games Arena. This facility had not operated as an ice arena for almost 8 years as the floor sank within its second year after construction. It took a joint effort from three levels of government to come up with the funding to do the necessary repairs. When this facility re-opened as an arena again, the community was buzzing with excitement and it was something very special.

After a brief time back in southern Ontario, I took the position of Assistant Director of Community Services with the Municipality of Wawa. Famous for the giant goose, it’s the town so nice they named it twice. This small town in northern Ontario is surrounded by beauty and has an incredible sense of community engagement. One of the most memorable times was being involved with the Pan Am Games Torch Relay, as we were one of the very first Celebration Communities along the Torch route. Having a small town be part of such a large scale event and seeing just how much community pride everyone up there has was truly inspiring.

A more recent memory was when I first started with the Town of Bradford West Gwillimbury as the Manager of Leisure Facilities. Within about the first month of being in the position, we had a lightning strike at the BWG Leisure Centre that took down approximately 80% of our building automation system. It was not exactly the start I had been hoping for, but there’s a great team here in Bradford and we worked hard to keep everything operational. Over the next several months, we worked diligently to get the building automation system fully repaired and restored. It was a challenging but educational experience to say the least.

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

We encounter challenges in our industry on a regular basis; from operational challenges, to staff challenges, to patron complaints, to budget challenges, etc. I suppose for me personally, one of the biggest challenges I have faced is having to get accustomed to the different culture within each municipality where I have worked. It often amazes me just how different it can be from one to the next, even within the same industry.

Another challenge I find is with the constantly changing legislation and industry guidelines. Not so much with keeping up with it – which can also be difficult at times – but more with finding the necessary resources to implement required changes, when operational budgets are already so tight. Sometimes, being required to adopt new standards comes with significant costs to renovate facilities or purchase new equipment and this can reduce your flexibility in other areas of your operation. It is often a rather delicate balancing act for managers.

How has your involvement with the ORFA affected your career?

The ORFA has been instrumental to my career; from the knowledge learned through taking their professional development courses, to finding new career opportunities on the ORFA website, to offering articles on industry best practices, to the professional networking opportunities that it creates. I would not be where I am in my career today without the ORFA. Even being able to call on people like Terry Piche, Graham Nesbitt or Tony Panetta to get their advice or opinion on a particular issue has proven valuable over the years.

List any best practices or tips that you have learned.

  1. You do not need to invent the wheel. If you are faced with a challenging situation, chances are that someone else in the industry has faced a very similar situation along the way. Reach out to your network because we are all in this industry together.
  2. CYA – We live in a litigious society and our industry is regulated by a variety of agencies and governing bodies. Be up to date on current legislation and document, document, document. It can be time consuming but may save your career.
  3. Health and Safety is critical and should not be overlooked or taken for granted. Due diligence means not only ensuring that you are competent, but that you are taking steps to ensure that your staff are competent as well. Ignorance is no excuse and complacency is the enemy. Always keep health and safety as a top priority.

Final thoughts.

Being in facility management/ facility operations, we are often behind the scenes. We have so many routine checks, inspections, maintenance tasks, function set-ups, etc. that we must make a concerted effort to remember the direct impact we have on the patrons who use and enjoy our facility. Take pride in what you do and work diligently to facilitate a positive experience to the residents and visitors who come to your community and into your facilities.

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