Lina Gasser is the Chief Administrative Officer with the Village of Hazelton and a member of our 2015 Local Government Management Internship (now Local Government Internship) cohort. We took a moment to talk with her about how her career has progressed since graduating from the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) in 2015 and participating in our local government intern program.
Q: First, can you briefly describe your position as the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) with the Village of Hazelton?
A: As the Chief Administrative Officer for the Village of Hazelton I ensure that Council’s vision for the Village of Hazelton is implemented as well as overseeing the day to day operations of a local government. I also hold the statutory titles of the Corporate Officer and Chief Financial Officer. I oversee not only the Village Office staff but also the Public Works employees and the Fire Department. My favourite part of being a CAO is being able to report back to Council that their goals have been achieved.
Q: Now, let’s go back a few years to when you were completing your degree at UNBC. What did your studies focus on? What did you think you’d be doing five years after graduating?
A: I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts with a major in International Studies and a minor in Political Science. I hoped that in five years I would be working in government, whether it be local, provincial or federal. I am happy that I chose local government as it has allowed me to live in Northern B.C.
Q: How did you learn about Northern Development’s local government internship program and why did you choose to apply?
A: I heard about the Northern Development internship program from one of my professors at UNBC. I chose to apply because at the time I was becoming more interested in where change begins. I noticed that local governments can help facilitate positive change. I was also recognizing that as much as I enjoyed learning about international, federal and provincial government there was no way I was going to move to a big city to pursue such a career.
Q: You were a Local Government Management Intern with the District of Fort St. James in 2015. What did you gain from this experience of working in local government?
A: Moving to Fort St. James was a big adventure! I gained an incredible amount of experience in every aspect of local government. Not only did I undertake Bylaw Enforcement by bicycle but I also joined the Fire Department and learned how to drive a Fire Engine. Moving to a small community forced me to say yes to experiences and opportunities I would not have had anywhere else. During my internship I was also able to discover what area of local government I had the greatest interest in, Corporate Administration.
Q: What did you do after completing your internship? How did your internship prepare you for this?
A: Six months into my internship I successfully applied for the Deputy Corporate Officer position with the District of Fort St. James. In the nearly 4 years I spent in Fort St. James I held many positions ending with Corporate Officer. My NDIT internship provided me with experiences that put me ahead of other candidates. I lacked years of service but made up for that with experience in nearly all local government departments. This experience also helped me secure my current position as CAO in Hazelton. The value of the internship program is also recognized across Northern B.C. and I think this recognition also helped secure my new position.
Q: What makes a career in local government in Northern B.C. a good choice?
A: I barely remember my interview with Northern Development back in early 2015, as I was terrified by the panel of interviewers, but when asked why I should be chosen for an internship I replied with “I love Northern B.C., this is where I want to be.” This statement is still accurate today. A career in local government allows me to live in a beautiful part of the world, work with incredible people and help create positive meaningful change at a local level. I am able to access great mountain bike trails from my front door; great skiing is a short drive away and there are endless hiking and river adventures to be had.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
A: A career in local government can be exciting, rewarding and terrifying at times. My NDIT internship cohort still remain the first people I call for help on policies, bylaws or general procedure questions. I will be forever grateful to NDIT for my start in local government!