Todays’ Leader Spotlight showcases Ed Van Vliet with the Niagara Region.
Ed, born and raised in Welland, received his Electronics Technology diploma from Niagara College in 1996. In 2006, Ed joined the Niagara Region as a SCADA Technician in the Water-Wastewater Division and in 2016 became SCADA Manager in the Water-Wastewater Division. Professionally, Ed is interested in automating processes, helping operators run and monitor their plants.
In 2012, Ed was part of a citizen’s group of cycling enthusiasts called Bike Welland. From this, he started a Bike Valet service for community events. In 2015, Ed joined the Niagara Region’s Active Transportation Sub-Committee, then in 2017, joined the City of Welland’s Active Transportation Committee. He is interested in how active transportation can improve communities, creating more livable spaces.
How do you define community leadership?
For me, community leadership is when people step forward for a cause in their community. Whether it’s about helping at a food drive, volunteering at an event, or sitting on a committee, it’s about improving the quality of living within the community.
Why are you personally motivated to explore community leadership?
I started my community leadership experience in 2012 when Welland became the first Bicycle Friendly City in Niagara. My daughter and I went to City Council to hear them receive information on the award, and she asked me, how can we help. It was her asking how can we help, how can we make a difference that I started to look into it. At the time, my answer was, “I don’t know, let’s find out”. Find out we did.
We need our communities to work for the people living in those communities.
With tighter budgets and competition between cities trying to lure new business and residents; everyone needs to work together to be responsive and accountable to the needs of the community.
What, in your view, is the most significant issue/opportunity facing our community? Why?
I think one significant issue in many communities is a lack of involvement, especially from youth. So many people feel that nobody will listen to them, that government does not care about people, that the issues are too big to deal with.
How you would go about tackling the above issue?
I’m not sure how you would tackle this. In the groups I’m in involved in, we try to make the work as enjoyable as possible, we ensure everyone has a voice and is heard. We try to be welcoming and encouraging; we ask questions from our supporters and critics. I approach a discussion with an open mind and try to see other points of views.
I think if everyone was a bit more respectful and open-minded toward each other, then you would get more community involvement.
In your view, what’s the most important attribute of a leader?
There are so many attributes that a leader relies upon, and I see the flexibility to adjust styles as the most important attribute. I’ve found there is no one way to lead a team through all circumstances. You need to be able to identify the leadership style that best suits the team and the task at hand.