The Federation of Canadian Municipalities has presented both Brandon Mayor Shari Decter Hirst and Virden Mayor Jeff McConnell with its 2014 International Award of Excellence.
Decter Hirst and McConnell were two of six municipal experts from across Canada to receive the award.
"I’m humbled and grateful," Decter Hirst said. "I think that the work that FCM does on a global basis is so important."
Decter Hirst was surprised with the award at the Brandon City Council meeting this week, presented to her by deputy mayor Len Isleifson on behalf of FCM.
"Since 2011, our mayor has been busy participating in the creation of municipal, local economic development worldwide," Isleifson said. "It is my pleasure to present this award to Her Worship Mayor Shari Decter Hirst for her work."
In November 2011, Decter Hirst was involved in the Gender Equality National Forum in Ukraine as part of the Canadian team of volunteers and consultants.
"Ukrainian folks were looking for women to talk about being politically engaged and try and encourage women to run for office," Decter Hirst said. "So having made those connections there, I certainly extended the invitation to come to Canada and to Brandon."
Decter Hirst participated in the Municipal Local Economic Development Forum in Edmonton in 2012, and hosted a delegation from Ukraine as part of the Ukrainian mayors’ mission to Canada last year.
"It was an opportunity for me to be meeting with mayors in the Ukraine, and of course that’s something now I’m looking at with all of the troubles that they’re having there, and thinking about a lot of the conversations we had around democracy and community engagement and how to build community, and so it has made the world much smaller," she said.
McConnell also participated in the MLED forum in Edmonton in 2012, visited Ukraine in 2011 and hosted a Ukrainian delegation in Virden.
"It’s an incredible program for everybody involved," he said. "While we’re sharing all of our economic development concepts and different ideas from across our nation with Ukraine, at the same time, we’re learning so much from them … it’s a different point of view, looking at our programs and maybe there’s something we can be doing differently."
McConnell said he was "quite floored" when he found out he was one of six award recipients.
"My immediate reaction was that the name that’s on the plaque should be all of the people involved with the program for Virden and not just me," he said. "Staff here at the town did a lot of work in preparation for hosting the delegation."
The FCM presents its International Awards of Excellence annually to Canadian municipal officials, either elected members or municipal employees, who have made an outstanding contribution to the federation’s international programs.
FCM provides the opportunity for Canadian municipalities to engage with communities around the world, through funding granted by Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada.
Other award winners are Margot Begin-Gillis, Truro, N.S.; Marina James,Economic Development Winnipeg; Stephen Pellarin, Small Business Centre, London, Ont.; and David Seabrook, Growth and Community Planning, Fredericton Tourism & Culture.