When a group of Edmonton’s municipal enforcement officers first decided last year to build a stronger, more integrated team, little did they think it would boil down to free hot chocolate and snow shovels on one of the coldest days of the year.
And they certainly didn’t imagine that they’d be nominated for a City Manager’s Award of Excellence for what they called their Be a Good Neighbour Challenge.
Tiffany Sustrik, team lead for District 1 Municipal Enforcement Officers, whose territory is the city’s northeast quadrant, says because the six-member team had not worked together very long, they wanted to build stronger bonds amongst themselves and also with external agencies and the general public.
“We all had different experience and our ages ranged from 25 to 62. We needed to build team morale and grow higher levels of trust and responsibility,” she says.
Tiffany and colleague Chantel Perizzolo said they were committed to showing the public that bylaw enforcement officers – who are often thought of as tough and punishment-focused – have a different side.
“Our main focus is on voluntary compliance,” says Chantel.
Other than tickets, officers usually issue compliance notices to give residents warning that they’re in violation of a bylaw concerning unsightly yards, weeds and long grass, zoning, etc. The enforcement part comes only after warnings are ignored.
Tiffany’s group turned its focus to the public, and at 7:30 am on a windy, bone-chilling March morning, they handed fresh cups of hot chocolate to people as they passed by the front entrance of the Stanley Milner Library.
“People really appreciated it, but we sure had to work hard for that appreciation,” says Chantel. “It was so cold that even with long johns on, we were dancing up and down and running back and forth just to try to keep warm.”
Later in the day, group members shoveled walks along an entire block of 97th Street, in an area not well known for paying much attention to snow shoveling.
Once they achieved all of their internal team-building-trust objectives with these efforts, the challenge aspect of their project name came into play.
They approached another group of officers, put on a presentation about how valuable their Be a Good Neighbour project was, and challenged them to come up with a project of their own.
And over at the Animal Care and Control Centre, they issued a similar challenge.
“We need their help frequently, when there’s a dog in the yard of a home whose owner we have to speak to,” says Tiffany, “so we wanted to build stronger bonds with them.”
The Challenge happened a little late in the winter for the two challenged groups to respond. Tiffany’s group is confident, however, that they’ll do so soon.
“Animal Control was just buzzing. They were really excited. There were high-fives and lots more going on in that boardroom,” says Tiffany.
The officers expect to issue more challenges and even re-challenges this winter.
“We’d like to keep this going, and growing,” says Chantel.