Young leader who works with Alberni nominated for premier’s award

Port Alberni economic development manager Pat Deakin has nominated a Nanaimo resident for a premier's award for her work with the Alberni Valley.

Cheryl McLay

Cheryl McLay

There’s a Port Alberni connection to a Nanaimo woman’s nomination for a premier’s award.

Cheryl McLay is one of three finalists who have been nominated for a premier’s award in the ‘emerging leader’ category.

McLay is a manager with the Ministry of Regional Economic and Skills Development and is based out of Nanaimo, but her work area includes Port Alberni.

City economic development manager Pat Deakin and Island Coastal Economic Trust CEO Al Barronas nominated McLay for the award in December.

She was in town on Monday to film a video promotion at Harbour Quay for her nomination.

“She has gone above and beyond in her efforts to help our community address key economic priorities,” Deakin said.

McLay was instrumental in the city’s successful $151,000 grant application from the B.C. Brownfield Renewal Funding Program.

The money is being used in the remediation of the former plywood site.

“Our first application wasn’t successful and she took this to the next level,” Deakin said.

McLay wasn’t just there during the Brownfield application, though.

“When she sees opportunities to connect our priorities with other similar ones she pursues it.”

The nomination was “unexpected”, the University of Alberta poli-sci grad said.

“But it is an honour to be nominated for the work I do with Island communities.”

McLay works with coastal communities like Port Alberni in an effort to diversify their economies.

Her ministry crafted one of the first ‘communities first’ pilot agreements with Port Alberni in 2009.

The agreement helps communities set strategic economic priorities and facilitates cross government support to help meet them.

Agreements with six additional communities soon followed.

Since then McLay has worked closely with Port Alberni on such initiatives as district energy and uptown revitalization.

“The current work with Port Alberni has more depth to it now,” McLay said.

McLay started working with the civil service at a young age, and as an emerging leader she was mentored herself by experienced colleagues.

“It was key in helping me understand communities and in terms of succession.”

reporter@albernivalleynews.com