No one wanted to believe it was real, but after 10 years with the District of Clearwater, Leslie Groulx, chief administrative officer, is officially retired.
A couple of gatherings were held in the courtyard behind the district office, first for just council and staff, and a second invite-only for the public, due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Various community members and leaders were invited to the event, which had a 50-person limit, due to outdoor gathering restrictions. Peter Milobar, MLA for Kamloops-North Thompson, Simpcw Band Chief Shelly Loring, Simpcw council member Tina Donald and former DOC mayor John Harwood, as well as current and past DOC councillors, were present, among many others.
After a short while of mingling and chatting, a few attendees took to the podium to say a few words, starting off with Mayor Merlin Blackwell.
“I’ve already said an awful lot of nice things about Leslie this week and you really can’t say enough about the impact that she’s had on this community,” he said. “The legacy here, I think we all know, is going to last for a long time and is going to continue bear fruit for many, many years.”
During her time with the DOC, Groulx has established many relationships with other communities and industry, such as Simpcw First Nation and Yellowhead Community Services.
She also has gone above and beyond in securing funds for various projects, and knows Clearwater inside and out, said Blackwell.
“What I’m going to really miss is Leslie’s encyclopedic knowledge of everything that happens in this town,” he said.
Council presented Groulx with a maple tree, which she gets to decide where it will be planted. Blackwell mentioned a tree is an excellent symbol of her time with the district because, much like a tree’s roots, she has established a foundation that will grow into something larger.
“It’s been a harrowing experience, especially the last couple years, and I don’t think this town would’ve survived in the way that it has and gone as smoothly without the influence of Leslie Groulx,” he said.
Chief Loring also spoke, noting how instrumental Groulx has been in bringing the two communities closer together. She also compared their relationship to the maple tree, establishing strong roots to grow into something bigger and better, with the ability to weather the storm.
Before the speeches, Loring, Donald, Charli Fortier and Angie Rainer sung the women’s warrior song for Groulx. Loring shared that while at a meeting in the Simpcw community, they sang this song and she noticed Groulx had tears in her eyes.
Every time after that, when a song would be sung and Groulx was in attendance, Loring made sure the women’s warrior song would be sung “in her honour.”
“When we sing the women’s warrior song, that is the highest level of recognition, respect, praise that we can give to another lady,” said Loring.
She and Donald then presented Groulx with some gifts, most notably a drum, made by Simpcw Elder Sam Saul, who passed away August 2020.
The drum was also painted by Serena Steele, a Simpcw artist, with the Simpcw logo, and cedar, sage and juniper, which are considered good medicinal plants.
The gift was presented to Groulx in a gift-giving ceremony, in which it’s placed in the receiver’s hands four times before being laid in their grasp.
“We don’t just hand it to them because it doesn’t signify respect,” said Donald.