There is a new face at the top of the Rimoka Housing Foundation, but it’s one that many residents of the region may recognize.
Jonathan Weir, who grew up in Ponoka County, assumed the post as the foundation’s chief administrative officer (CAO) back in November.
For Weir, this job turned out to be the right opportunity.
He brings to the table a degree in mechanical engineering and completion of all three levels of the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation.
He also has experience working as construction foreman, 12 years pursuing the acting profession, being a technical director for stage and film, work as a carpenter and a labourer as well as working as an engineer in the energy sector.
“I think acting kind of gives me a bit of a leg up on being in public and giving speeches,” Weir said with a bit of a chuckle when sitting down for an interview on Jan. 20.
Weir says he had heard about the position and luckily enough, was put in touch with (Ponoka County CAO) Charlie Cutforth and found out the position was a lot more than just managing people.
Weir added he finally felt the job was right after meeting the people that make up the organization.
However, the process was a long one and wasn’t as simple as going to an interview, something that actually left Weir impressed and wanting to really be a part of Rimoka.
“It wasn’t simply an interview, but I had to give speeches to different parts of the organization, so it was essentially more like campaigning for the job,” he said, adding it helped him learn about the people and the operation.
“The team we have is so strong and has such a sense of community, it makes it a really tremendous place to work. The team here is out of this world. How they deliver all the services we provide makes my job very easy. They all understand what we are all about and what we mean to the people we serve. Plus, having a great board helps with that.”
Rimoka — with an annual budget of between $4 to 5 million — has two full time lodges, five seniors housing projects and owns a number of social housing units in Ponoka and Rimbey. That means there are a lot of buildings that Weir understands the inner workings of as well as what it takes to maintain them.
However, what makes Rimoka special to Weir is how running it relates back to one of his previous jobs.
“The crazy thing is, I managed a cafe in Vancouver where I learned a lot, especially how different it is running a business where the vast majority of employees are women,” he said.
“Just simply the contrasting way they approach how to get things done and attack problems in a different manner, compared to other operations.”
Weir added that being a Ponoka native, growing up on a ranch just west of town, provides him with a unique understanding of the community, with the job improving that considering how engaged and plugged in the organization is to what is going on in the two communities it serves.
“It’s always good to be back home, and a pleasure to come in and help take care of the community that I was raised in,” he said.
Two plans Weir has come up with in the last couple of months will certainly help care for people.
The first is constructing a new passive and close to LEED (green) certified building as part of ending homelessness in Ponoka. It would be built on land Rimoka purchased last year, where the present Rising Sun Clubhouse Society sits.
“I want a 100-year building. There has been a long-term need for more social housing here,” Weir said.
The idea is for a four or five story structure with the society remaining as a tenant on the main floor. The rest would contain between 12 to 18 units, with both bachelor and two-bedroom units offered.
“It’s a bit of a Hail Mary, but the thought is to have a vertical farm on the roof,” Weir added.
“It would be a great opportunity for the society to expand their programming, while also teaching those less fortunate to grow their own food. We’ve had some good comments from the board so far.”
The second idea, which will hopefully start in mid-February, will be providing soup in Rimbey for local meal programs for those in need.
“Our new lodge is wonderful, but the kitchen was over built and we have things we never learned to use,” he said.
“It will be supplied at cost to help out the community and may also help get some workers a few extra hours.”
Weir feels things are off to a nice start, but there remains a lot of work to do.
“There is some long-term planning needed that includes ideas for growth and continuing to look at homelessness. Ponoka is a wealthy community, so we should be fully capable of dealing with it,” he said.