At the same time as the City of Penticton was laying off 20% of its existing workforce last month in response to the pandemic, it was also in the process of hiring its first-ever social development strategist.
“We actually expedited the process, just given the additional demand with COVID,” said Blake Laven, the city’s director of development services.
“Our emergency operations centre was getting bombarded with requests for assistance in areas that were social development-related.”
The new hire is Adam Goodwin, a native of the North Okanagan who spent the past four years in the social planning department at the City of Red Deer before starting in Penticton on April 7.
No, he’s not a social worker.
“I’m not in service delivery. That’s not a role that I’ll be playing. My role really is around ensuring advocacy, accountability and co-ordination in the community,” said Goodwin.
“These agencies are so focused on service delivery and doing excellence in that (it’s helpful) having someone behind the scenes helping co-ordinate things and connect those dots.”
When he hasn’t been in the EOC, working on things like securing beds for vulnerable people and arranging relief for socially isolated seniors, Goodwin – who has a one-year-old son, Elliot, with his wife, Samantha, along with a beagle named Louise – has been connecting with city staff and outside agencies that are doing the actual social work.
“He got himself immersed quickly,” said Matthew Baran, executive director of the Ooknakane Friendship Centre. “I think he’s going to be great.”
While the centre has no immediate need for Goodwin’s services, the boss does see a benefit in someone focusing on the bigger picture.
“When you have all these different threads doing good work, doing that good service, having someone who can… weave those threads together to strengthen the social fabric of the community is good,” said Baran.
Goodwin’s position was created in the 2020 budget at the urging of Coun. Julius Bloomfield, who envisioned the role as one that also helps youth and seniors, along with those on the margins of society.
As an example, some of Goodwin’s first duties include helping prepare a community child-care needs assessment and assisting with the city’s bid to achieve an age-friendly designation, work for which the local government already has grant money it was relying on others staffers to administer off the sides of their desks.
Finance manager Jim Bauer said council approved in the 2020 budget a $106,000 expenditure for the new position, which will cover Goodwin’s salary and benefits, although the city is billing some of Goodwin’s time to the provincial emergency program.
“From my perspective, it’s easily justifiable,” said Laven, “but I can understand the general public, when you’re laying off parks guys, they might not understand the (need for the) social development role and the actual work that individual is doing.”
Goodwin welcomes phone calls at 250-328-8872 or emails to firstname.lastname@example.org.