OUTLOOK - Having written a number of these articles now, it's become apparent that the people who work for the Town of Outlook seem to do so because of one unwavering quality that they seem to share - a commitment to community.
The picture is becoming quite clear that this what you need to have if you're going to serve in such a role where you're basically an unofficial ambassador, working for the people of this town and ensuring that they enjoy the same consistent quality of life day in and day out.
Town foreman Kelton MacDonald, probably one of the nicest and most genuine people you'll come across on such a crew, started his career with the town as a student, working his way up until he reached the position he holds today.
"I've been foreman for about three and a half years," said Kelton, sitting down with this reporter. "I actually started out as a summer student after I graduated in 2014, and I worked in that role for quite a few months, and then I transitioned into full-time employment as a heavy equipment operator and water plant operator. I started out in the water plant, working with all the utilities and some equipment operating, and after a couple of years, I got moved up to foreman when the opportunity became available."
When asked what a normal, typical day might be like for him, MacDonald had the same response as others who've been asked the same question for this story series. It further paints the picture that taking on a job with the Town of Outlook means understanding that your Tuesday morning could look vastly different from your Thursday afternoon. Knowing this, employees need to know how to adapt, and Kelton says he for one enjoys not knowing exactly what tasks that each day will bring.
"It's not very typical," he said. "We do have some structure for, generally, what our daily and weekly tasks are that need to be done, and those stay the same. But as for things coming up, throughout the municipality, there are so many different ranges of what you're going to be doing through the week, and it depends on what season you're in too. There is a lot of uncertainty at times, other than the structural framework for what needs to be done every day of the week, but things are pretty non-typical. Some days you might be digging up a water break, the next you might be handing out flyers. It goes all over the place, but honestly, that's one of my favorite things about the job; every day or every week isn't going to be the same, and you get a lot of variety, and I enjoy that! For me, it's good."
Because of the responsibilities that come with the job, paired with the size and scope of the community, one of the biggest challenges MacDonald faces is emergencies that can have a tendency to come at the worst possible time. While he enjoys the obstacles that can come his way, he also says it can be a reminder that not every community can be prepped for everything.
"Speaking specifically to our utilities department, to use as an example, I would say emergency situations," he said. "A lot of times, things come up at the worst time when you're not expecting it, but that's one of the big challenges; being prepared to deal with those things that are unexpected and knowing how to deal with them. Another part that I do enjoy about it, though, is that there's always a bit of surprise and mystery when things are always popping up like that. We try to be prepared, but you can't be prepared for literally everything."
As someone who's called Outlook home his entire life, Kelton says he's enjoyed getting to know the people of the community on another level.
"One of my favorite things about working for the town is the fact that I was born and raised here, grown up here my whole life, and I've really gotten to know the people and the community over the years," he said. "It's really good to see yourself starting to familiarize with who you grew up with and all the people, and I just really enjoy it. It's close to home for me, and that's probably one of the best parts of the job."
Another portion of our afternoon talk that was similar as others that came before it was Kelton's take on the things that go on within the Town of Outlook that the public may not be aware of. People may be blind to what actually goes into running a community, but Kelton says it was something that very much opened his eyes when he started working for the town.
"I would say yes," said MacDonald, on if the public may be unaware of what goes into helping the town of Outlook churn along each day. "Speaking from my own experience when I started out in the utilities aspect of the job, this is how I word it to other people - never before in my life had I ever questioned when I turned open a tap where that water had come from. Is it safe to drink? Is it of quality? The other end of that, where does it go when it goes down the drain or when I flush the toilet? These are things that I had taken for granted my entire life, and they're things that I think people just forget about. You don't really realize how important our utilities are and how much time and effort and engineering is involved with keeping those things operating correctly and smoothly to serve a high-quality product to our consumers. I took it for granted until I worked in the industry, and it definitely opened my eyes up to it."
Kelton himself had to get used to understanding the full scope of knowledge that came his way when he started his job.
"Absolutely it has," he said, on if the job has been eye-opening for him. "Just not knowing or being educated about it as a young person, once I came in here to this job, you don't realize how many different aspects there are to running a municipality and trying to keep things going in a positive motion for your ratepayers, residents and everybody involved. There are a lot of different wheels in motion at all times and things you don't realize that need to be done that are being done. My eyes have definitely been opened to what's going on behind the curtains."
MacDonald beamed when he was asked about his home community, proud of where he comes from and what Outlook can offer people. The town has a lot going for it and he says that because of the location, everything that people could ever need is either down the street or within a small drive.
"I like this question because I take a lot of pride in our community," he beamed. "I think we have it absolutely awesome here. You've got Gardiner Dam, a really cool and beautiful place and we're only 40 minutes away. We've got just about everything you could ever need here in Outlook, but if we don't, the city of Saskatoon's only 45 minutes away. The biggest thing for me is this river. We are so fortunate to have that here. The beauty, the recreational purposes, our park that's built off of it; we're a very fortunate Saskatchewan town to be where we are and have what we have. I really enjoy this community and I think those are some of the best highlights of it."
MacDonald says that he encourages people to ask town employees questions if they're curious about projects or initiatives that are being carried out. The goal is to ensure that everyone is on the same page together as a community in order to look toward the future.
"The only thing I'd have to say is that if people have an opinion or don't know about something, please feel free to come ask," he said. "We're trying really hard to strive for transparency and I believe strongly in education. We're happy to try and find answers for you. We'll work with the people, they'll work with us, and maybe we can all be on the same page together."