Last summer, the Town of Fort Frances welcomed Gabrielle Lecuyer as the municipal clerk, and Lecuyer said she could not be more excited in her new role.
“Fort Frances is quite picturesque. It’s a nice area. We instantly loved the area because we are quite outdoorsy,” Lecuyer said. “We go fishing and hunting and I love camping. We have a trailer and we camp all summer long. There’s tons of opportunities for that here. People have been so kind and very friendly. You feel part of the community right away.”
Lecuyer was born in Dryden to parents who originate from Quebec. When Lecuyer was just nine months old, the family relocated to Nakina, Greenstone, where Lecuyer grew up.
“That’s where I grew up and went to school,” Lecuyer said. “I went to school in Longlac, which is quite the drive every day. That was the only French high school in the area. We did what we had to do to have a French education, which was important for us, we wanted to maintain that culture.”
Lecuyer resided with her husband in Nanika and worked at the saw mill for 10 years doing finance and payroll until the mill shut down. The Lecuyers then relocated to Manitoba. Lecuyer’s husband, a red seal electrician by trade, worked at a mine, and that is when she started her career in the municipal world.
“I worked for a rural municipality called Lac du Bonnet,” Lecuyer said. “I started off there again in the finance area and quickly moved into the assistant administrator role, which was working very closely with the CAO and got to work with two different councils while I was there.”
Lecuyer enjoyed the dynamic of being in that role because it is the hub of the organization. She said being able to hear the residents’ concerns and seeing how council chose to deal with them was interesting.
“On the management side of things, I also get to see the recommendations that are coming through and why they are coming that way,” Lecuyer added. “You really get to see the three sides of the story. It’s very interesting how it ends up developing in the end. That’s where I got my real interest in local government and how complex and rewarding it can be.”
After Lecuyer worked at Lac du Bonnet’s municipal office for five years and found her niche, she attended the University of Manitoba and obtained her certification in municipal administration. Lecuyer was proud of this achievement, given it was earned at a time when she had her son and was expecting her daughter.
“After the five-year stint in Manitoba, we ended up relocating to Greenstone and I was successful in being the municipal clerk for seven years,” Lecuyer said, adding that they moved to town when her husband got a job with Centra Pipeline. She then got her job as the town’s municipal clerk when the job was vacant.
Still, Lecuyer is a huge advocate for education and learning, which is why she started taking a lot of courses through the Association of Municipal Managers, Clerks and Treasurers of Ontario (AMCTO). Even though she had a municipal administration certificate from the University of Manitoba, Lecuyer said, it was for Manitoba.
“Legislation is different in Ontario,” Lecuyer said. “I had to start it all over again. I also obtained through the AMCTO organization a municipal clerk accreditation for Ontario. The accreditation does take several, several years of education.”
Lecuyer said working in a big or a small municipality does not matter because the work is the same, adding that clerks usually have more resources in a big municipality. The requirements, policies and legislations that have to be followed are the same, but resources are scarce in a small municipality, Lecuyer said.
“You’re taking on other duties. Whereas maybe in larger municipalities, there may be different departments. For example, a department for freedom of information requests, or a department specific for election. When “you’re it,” you have to maintain the everyday plus all the upcoming [duties]. You have to be able to work in a super fast paced environment and feel comfortable. It comes with the experience as well.”
That being said, Lecuyer speaks to the kindness of Fort Frances residents. Lecuyer said she walked her nine-year-old daughter to the school bus on the first day to give her some comfort.
There were two students on the bus and Lecuyer told her daughter that they would introduce themselves.
“She was super shy and the little girl approached her and gave her daughter a big hug and told her ‘You’re the new girl coming into our school.’ She says I’m so happy to meet you. My daughter looked at me and said ‘I think I’ll be ok.’ She was able to get on the bus with this little girl and make her way to her school and felt instantaneously welcomed,” Lecuyer said. “The kids have felt a huge welcome and that made me feel very good.”