There’s more to being part of a town than just living there. For Kim Stephen, it means working to improve and enhance the community.
Her community involvement started long before she became mayor of Snow Lake by acclamation in 2014.
“I think I’ve sat on just about every committee in the community,” Stephen says with a chuckle.
From the local Order of the Royal Purple to the Snow Lake Emergency Fund, her devotion runs deep.
Stephen moved to the area 30 years ago and only took a couple of years to assess the situation before organizing the inaugural Snow Lake Winter Who-ot, the winter carnival that celebrated its 28th anniversary this month.
Add that to the movie nights she and a group of volunteers put on every Friday for children in the community, and you start to see just how dedicated she is.
Although she had never held a council position prior to stepping up as mayor, Stephen had plenty of experience dealing with politicians in various roles.
She was instrumental in re-establishing the Manitoba Métis Federation in Snow Lake and sat on the federation’s provincial management board. Stephen was also on the board of directors from 2006 to 2010, serving as deputy minister of child and family services with the federation.
“You pick up a lot of things by meeting people in different levels of government,” she says. “I’m always out there watching and listening.”
Stephen became interested in politics at a young age. When she was growing up in the Swan River Valley, her father was involved in politics and often had people coming and going from the house who were discussing politics. Stephen paid attention.
She and her husband own and operate HD Central Express, which houses the local bus depot, Sears outlet and giftware on Snow Lake’s Main Street. Add that to being a mom of two girls and some people would wonder how she has the time to do everything she does.
For Stephen it’s second nature.
“I have a love for the community of Snow Lake,” she says. “I’ve always got up and got involved, and I think it’s important to volunteer and give back. It’s something I want my children to learn. You can’t always just think things will run by themselves.”
Through her role on various committees and now as the mayor, Stephen works to get others involved.
“I think being a team player is important,” she says. “There are some people who are shy and find it hard to step out of their box. We have to encourage them so they feel like they are part of the team and realize that they can do their part, too.”
While there is always lots of work to be done, making the jobs fun is a key to success.
“I’m always dancing around, acting silly when I’m working at an event because you have to make it fun, and it is,” Stephen says.
For the rookie mayor, it’s important to promote the local area and welcome officials to the community as friends. She works hard to convince politicians to come to the area on fishing trips or vacations with their families so they can get a true sense of what Snow Lake is about.
“Come to our community,” Stephen invites. “Don’t just fly in and fly out. It doesn’t do it any justice. You don’t really see it.”
Through conversations with politicians at the provincial and federal levels, Stephen is working to open their eyes to the needs of the northern community and how those needs differ from other regions.
She describes Snow Lake as a very proud community where yards are kept tidy and people work together to help the community grow and develop. Work has already begun on major celebrations slated for July 2017 when Snow Lake will celebrate its 70th anniversary to coincide with the 150th anniversary of Canada.
“We want to draw people back to the community so they can see the changes that have taken place,” Stephen says.
While people have moved away over the years, there has been a recent influx of new people thanks in large part to Hudbay’s Lalor mine.
“The Lalor mine has brought back some emotional spirit and economic stability to our citizens,” says Stephen.
She feels that having the mine development has been instrumental in keeping a doctor in the community and is a factor in the increased land development in town.
There are positive projects in the works in Snow Lake. A new 24-unit condo building for seniors recently opened, property assessments are increasing and a beach enhancement project will begin this year.
Council is currently working on increasing accessibility throughout town and with the assistance of funding from both the provincial and federal governments, water and sewer lines are scheduled for upgrades. In January, council passed a bylaw that will provide tax reductions as an incentive for commercial development.
Stephen also praised Hudbay and the support the company has provided the community in terms of supporting a new roof on the community hall, fire truck and even helping bring the Grey Cup to the community last year.
“It’s the little things that make a difference and create a great community,” she says. “By working together you can touch so many people.”