New director takes charge

 

By Joel Charron

Dean Collver is settling in nicely in his new position.

Collver was hired in late December 2011 as the town’s new Director of Recreation and Culture.

Born and raised in Truro, Nova Scotia, Collver moved to Ontario with his wife in 1987 and attended McMaster University where he earned a degree in English.

Collver’s career began in the hospitality industry, which eventually led him down the special events management path.

Collver became the director of communications and public relations for Bayer Inc. in Sarnia. Collver said a big part of that job was organizing the Bayer Championship, a golf tournament on the Canadian Professional Golf Tour.

“That’s where my true love of sports tourism and what sports and recreation can do for a community came about,” said Collver.

He added that the Bayer Championship was a “huge event” that had a significant impact on the Sarnia community.

After Bayer began to downsize because of an economic downturn, Collver’s position with the company was resourced back to their head office in Pittsburgh, he eventually left for a position with the OHL franchise Sarnia Sting.

In 2003, Collver helped lead a committee that submitted a bid to host the 2003 Memorial Cup. Although London was eventually awarded the bid, Collver said he was told his committee did a “great job” in presenting their bid.

“That was a great experience,” said Collver. “It was about pulling together the community toward a common cause. We engaged the municipal government and we engaged the region. We had a committee of about 25-30 people that were all on board. It was event planning at its finest. We knew if we had won the bid that the next day we could pull it off.”

With Collver’s contract up and the Sting without a Business Manager, Collver made a successful pitch for the position.

“They accepted me  and I spent the next three years learning how to be a business manager,” he joked.

Over the next few years, Collver would learn how to successfully brand, market an OHL franchise.

 

Hired as the new Director of Recreation and Culture, Dean Collver is hoping his skills and experience can help bring Amherstburg to the next level.

Three years later, the Sarnia Sting took control of the Sarnia Sports and Entertainment Centre (now known as the RBC Center.)

“The owner walked in one day and told me that I manage the building now,” explained Collver.

In conjunction with managing the team Collver was given the opportunity to manage a separate legal entity.

Collver promoted and co-promoted events with large companies in addition of servicing the local minor hockey system.

“That was really a big step in learning how to do all that,” he said.

After wanting to broaden his horizons, Collver accepted the Facility manager position at the University of Windsor’s St. Dennis Athletic and Community Center in 2009.

Collver moved to Amherstburg shortly after because he said he “had a good feeling” whenever he drove into town.

“I remember telling my wife that there was something about this place, it made me feel good when I drove it,” he said.  “It wasn’t anything specific it was literally an instinct based on the atmosphere.”

Collver said he was “fully engaged” at what he was doing at the University of Windsor and wasn’t really looking to change jobs, however to accept a position in a town that hehad  “grown to love,” Collver jumped at the chance.

“With all the things that caused me to move here I thought I’d take a swing and see if there was a fit and it turns out there was,” he said.

The Director of Recreation and Culture position will consist of Collver overseeing the United Community Credit Union  (UCCU) Complex as well as maintaining the park facilities, cultural events aspects of the town and dabble in tourism.

“I believe Amherstburg is converging,” said Collver. “There are so many natural assets of Amherstburg that are coming together now.  We’re pulling all these things together, like the wine region and the food and the heritage, these are all things that have a natural fit. Then we have all these other parts that are coming around the outside edge and it’s all coming together. I’m hopeful what I’ll be able to do is apply some of the skills I’ve accumulated in marketing, branding and communication to help to keep pulling those things together so Amherstburg solidifies its identity.”

Collver admits there is a steep learning curve in getting accustomed to his new job however having good people in place makes the learning curve easier to deal with.

“I’ve really been impressed with the people here,” he said. ‘I’m looking forward to supporting and enhancing what they are already bringing to the table. We will work towards a common goal but everyone’s voice will matter.”

A big portion of Collver’s job will deal with the UCCU Complex. Collver describes the UCCU Complex as a baby.

“When this community got the UCCU Complex, they got a baby,” he explained. “The baby requires clothing, food, nourishment and encouragement.”

Collver said just like a baby, the community has a responsibility to the UCCU Complex, as it is now an important part of the community. However, every child has to contribute back to his family, he added.

“It has to mature at some point and become a contributing factor in this community and that’s what our objective is here,” said Collver.

Collver, who has been around several facilities similar to Amherstburg’s, called the UCCU Complex a “spectacular facility”

“I’ve been in many and worked in a few and all that I’ve seen, this is one of the best if not the best,” he stated.  “I say that from a function and accommodating aspect.”

He added that the UCCU Complex has all the amenities and isbuilt in such a way as to create an “amazing asset” for those who experience the building.

With only just two weeks under his belt Collver said he’s only begun to scratch the surface as far as possibilities for the town.

“We have an opportunity to expand to other kinds of events, other kinds of attractions and draw,” he said.

Although Collver declined to get into specifics because he didn’t want it to sound like “promises” but mentioned he’s more than ready to take on the responsibilities.

“I’m excited because people are excited,” he said. “People are excited to see change, they are excited to see things evolve and become something and that’s where I get to be a part of it. I’m excited and nervous…but not scared.”

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