In June, Johanne Morin, the Director of Lac Brome Recreation and Community Services (LBRCS) will retire after 27 years at the service of the citizens of TBL. “It is with a sense of mission accomplished but also with a heavy heart that I leave LBRCS” said Morin after the mayor announced that recreation services would become a town department. “At the same time, this is the right change, done for the right reasons,” added Morin. “It will bring more efficiency to the management process. Our budget and the responsibilities that come with it have grown in the past 26 years. The administrative process was using up more and more time and resources sometimes to the detriment of programmes,” admitted Morin. She remembers the very first budget of $102,850 she submitted to the town on January 1, 1992.
TBL Community Services was founded in 1991, as an independent non-profit organization, following a strong recommendation coming out of the Imaginaction community planning process of 1988. Its new Board of Directors soon hired Johanne as its first (and only) director general. Claire Kerrigan, a member of this first Board reminisces “I have known Johanne since 1991 and have worked with her continuously since then. She is a real professional and listens well. I have never known her to be anything but positive, cheerful and open-minded.”
At the beginning, Community Services was housed in the old decrepit Legion building (demolished since) on James Street where mice and other critters often invited themselves to the monthly management meetings of the board of directors! The relocation of Community Services to Centre Lac-Brome in 2007 is, in itself, a sign of how far those services have grown under Johanne’s leadership. It is also what she is the most proud of. “Johanne was the energetic and enthusiastic driving force of LBRCS. She built it from zero to what it is today,” says TBL ex-councillor Cynthia Wilkinson who sat on its board of directors as the town elected representative for six years. “She was most efficient in getting the right location for CLB. She got people involved, she listened and it led to the right decision,” adds Wilkinson. And Johanne recalls how difficult it was to find the right location for the Centre. “I am quite proud not to have given up despite the many obstacles.’’
In 1992, the residents had access to a limited number of activities. Now a wide choice of activities is available for all ages and nine employees ensure the smooth running of programmes and the administration of LBRCS. Lions Park, the walking paths soon to join Knowlton to Foster, Douglass Beach are just some of the facilities that were developed with the town during Johanne’s tenure. Many social and health services are now available. Tourism and culture have also been added to the mix of activities under Johanne’s management.
In her 27 years of service, Johanne worked with five different administrations and four mayors. Gaston Lafontaine, former President of LBRCS sees, in part, tongue in cheek, a parallel here with “the Queen having to work with many prime ministers. I always admired Johanne for her capacity to navigate so efficiently in various political waters. She was always well liked by her staff and you seldom heard negative comments in the population.’’
As Mayor Richard Burcombe put it, “it will be business as usual” for citizens, but for those who worked closely with Johanne Morin, it will never really be the same. “It will be difficult to succeed her” mused Wilkinson. “Her shoes are just too big to fill.”