Opening Speech for October. 11 Forum
My name is Riley Gettens and I am running for your Area F Director. I am married, have been for almost 20 years, to Grant. We have two incredible boys Chay who is 14 and attends Princess Margaret and Jase who is 12 and attends Skaha Lake Middle School. Both boys attended West Bench Elementary from kindergarten to grade five.
We chose to move to WB in 2007.
We chose here because it is magic. For us, the magic was 3.5 acres within walking distance of an elementary school and a 10-minute drive to a beautiful little City in the South Okanagan.
It was the best decision we have ever made and we have never looked back.
I graduated from the University of Calgary in 1997 with a BA in Social Anthropology and focused on international relations and business. Throughout my career, I have effectively advocated, worked for and worked with local and provincial governments. I have a proven reputation as a community engagement specialist.
For example, I coordinated a provincial initiative to improve access to care for South Okanagan Children and Youth facing mental health and substance use issues. I facilitated regional meetings attended by physicians, social workers, ministry staff, families and youth who have lived through these challenges and even families who lost a child to mental health and substance use.
As you can imagine, a group of people with very different experiences and with very strong opinions on how to improve access to care. It was through my engagement skills that each person was heard and actively participated in the project resulting in new communication tools for family physicians to use with their young patients. Those tools have since spread province-wide.
As an Economic Development Consultant for the City of Penticton, I successfully advocated the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation for funding to help address a labour shortage in Penticton's industrial sector.
I also managed communication and community engagement projects on behalf of the City, the Downtown Penticton Association and the United Way.
In my spare time, I am a bit of a policy and government nerd...
From 2011 - 2014, I was a member of the Community and Business Development Committee for the City of Penticton and for the last year and a half, I volunteered as a member of our area’s Official Community Plan Advisory Group for the RDOS. Since 2014, I have been on the steering committee for 100 Women Who Care which is part of the Community Foundation of the South Okanagan Similkameen.
My signs say I am innovative, determined and resourceful… and here is a close to home example.
My son was in grade four at West Bench when we were told that our school might be closed. A group of volunteers banded together and everyone leveraged his or her strengths for the common goal.
The strengths that I brought to the fight to keep our school open was my approach to complex issues. I have a very strategic mindset, am well-connected and have strong advocacy expertise.
It was important to get public opinion on side and not fall into the ‘close any school but our school’ message… after all, we had the lowest number of students but we had the greatest to lose as a community. I continually engaged with local media by providing data, photos, interviews (not just with me), quotes… whatever I could do to keep this school and elementary students top of mind.
I have a reliable reputation with many of our community influencers and I motivated a number of those individuals to support our efforts, get involved and champion our cause.
It was a long haul for this community. We were the first on the list of closures and the very last to be removed. But I am determined and resourceful. I will respectfully keep up the pressure on those who are in power to find a solution. I will leverage connections and ensure that there is no stone left unturned, no conversation unspoken…..
I do not give up on issues that matter.
I have no doubt that my approach and advocacy skills along with every other person who committed time to door knocking, attending meetings, writing letters or being here in this gym on December. 1, 2015 is in large part why this school remains open today.
I am running for your Area F Director because I love government and community engagement work and I am very good at it. I want to bring my experience and expertise to the Area in which I live. I want to do what I have done for so many other organizations for you, for us.
I have the energy and resources to work on the small improvements that often bring some of the biggest community benefits. And I have the skills and experience to help our communities tackle the complex issues that we face today.
Thank you for your time. I am Riley Gettens and am asking for your vote for the Director of Area F.