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Innisfail salutes cherished elected women leaders

Gala at Innisfail Library/Learning Centre included tribute to town’s first female mayor Patricia Newman
MVT Innisfail salutes women leaders
Four accomplished Innisfail women took centre stage on Nov. 26 at the Innisfail Library/Learning Centre for the Celebrating Women Leaders In Our Community gala. From left to right are Town of Innisfail Mayor Jean Barclay, Patricia Newman - Innisfail's first elected female mayor, Coun. Janice Wing, and Coun. Cindy Messaros. Photo by Tasha Chiu Photography

INNISFAIL – More than 100 citizens came together last week to salute an extraordinary group of women who have braved past archaic stereotypical roles and are proving today they do have the right stuff to make a difference.

The Nov. 26 private gala event at the Innisfail Library/Learning Centre was called Celebrating Women Leaders In Our Community, and it featured special guests Innisfail mayor Jean Barclay, Patricia Newman - Innisfail's first elected female mayor, Coun. Janice Wing, and Coun. Cindy Messaros.

All four ladies were guest speakers at the event, which was organized by Innisfail lawyer Alysa Tams and daughter Dani Rain.

Tams said she was inspired to organize the gala due to the past and present success of good friend Messaros, the long-time executive director of the Alberta Workforce Essential Skills Society who successfully ran for town council on Oct. 18.

“It was just a happy occasion, and I felt it would be nice to have a celebration, particularly focused on women. It was a really nice fun event,” said Tams. “It’s significant because this is only our second female mayor. I felt this was a great time to celebrate women taking leadership roles within the community.”

Wing, a past business manager for 10 years at École John Wilson Elementary School and former chair of the Red Deer College Board of Governors, said she was honoured to be part of the event, adding she’s following a long line of extraordinary women, past and present, who have served the community.

“Innisfail’s women may not have had a large legacy of political leadership but the women of Innisfail have been leaders in their communities for decades and we should never overlook that,” she said.

Wing noted that the town has had women from Innisfail and the surrounding area that have received awards through the women of excellence program at the Red Deer & District Community Foundation, where she served as executive director.

“All of the not-for-profits in Innisfail have forever had extraordinary leadership from women. Perhaps this is a new opportunity for us to consider how we can build some interest from women to get involved and I think we will,” said Wing. “I think we have an amazing group of young women in this community now that are very interested.

"We have a lot of young women and men in Innisfail that would love to be engaged. We just need to figure out how to get them to the point where they have the ability to do that.”

Wing noted Innisfail hosted women’s conferences in the past and feels now is the time to have them have their own “space” to learn about current issues, and more importantly, opportunities that are available.

“Woman bring a different kind of vision to any of those conversations. It would be good for us as a community to ensure that we have balance on our council, and gender balance is only one of those things but it’s important,” she said.

Tams said there was initially no intention in making the celebration an annual event but that could change due to its success.

“There sounds like there is some interest in that so I guess we will see where that goes,” said Tams.

As there was a raffle held at the event, it triggered the creation of a charitable organization. The proceeds of the raffle will go to a charity of the celebrated women’s choice.