The council years

It’s been an eye-opening and challenging few years on Black Diamond Council. It’s not something I will ever regret doing – putting my name forward in 2017 and being elected has been, by and large, a wonderful experience. Now, trying to relay all I’ve done over the past five years in an easy to read post is the trick.

Here are some of the highlights:

Sustainable Black Diamond Advisory Committee – I was with this group for two years. The committee wanted to increase youth participation with the town, so we partnered with Oilfields High School and welcomed a youth member. We also started supporting the sustainability efforts the students were working on and the school’s garden and outdoor classroom grew from there. I am still involved with student-led projects and am happy to say the relationship between the Town of Black Diamond and Oilfields High School is stronger than ever.

Community Futures Highwood – I had the amazing fortune to join the CFH board in 2017. This organization is tasked with lending money to local and regional entrepreneurs to start or grow their businesses. This is a federally funded program, but it is managed at the regional level. I am now the chairperson at CFH and the board just approved a full restructuring of how they operate. The mandate remains the same, but we have made the board a more manageable size (down from 18 to 9). This will allow for better future planning and delivery of services from CFH.

Amalgamation – this was a complicated and complex task. Looking back, this topic took up the bulk of my time on council. It was no easy decision, but I stand by my vote to amalgamate. What finally helped me decide was looking to the future and imagining what our community would be like if we did not amalgamate. I didn’t feel the status quo was good enough so I said yes.

Intermunicipal Economic Development Committee – this committee was created to build name recognition for Turner Valley and Black Diamond and to promote business retention and new business development within our community. I am proud of the the way this group formed. Amalgamation talks were in full swing and I viewed the IEDC as a training ground for how the two towns could work together towards a common goal. This committee has grown from the original 10 members to 12 people; four councillors and eight members at large, all business leaders within the region.

Foothills Tourism Association – my work with FTA is not part of my council duties, but it does play a huge part in what I believe is the future of our region. The FTA encourages tourism from Bragg Creek to Nanton and Kananaskis to Okotoks/High River. By bolstering tourism we create a visitor economy where all businesses, tourism facing or not, can flourish. The Foothills Tourism Association works with municipal and provincial support. We want visitors to see our region as we do and of course support our businesses while they enjoy this incredible place.

It was a full five years. I managed to keep within my interests and talents when it came to committees of council. I hope to continue being part of these initiatives in the future whether I am on council or not.

Diamond Valley election – 2022

Hello everyone, I am Veronica Kloiber and I am running for council of the newly minted Town of Diamond Valley. I have been on Black Diamond Council since 2017 and told myself and voters I would run for two terms. The amalgamation changed things a bit, so now I get to participate in three elections, not just two.

My husband and I have called Black Diamond home since 2009. We moved here to be closer to extended family and raise our son in a small town. Our boy is now a teenager and we look back fondly on the fantastic childhood memories that were made possible by living in this beautiful place.

When I was first elected in 2017, my goals were to improve communication, transparency and infrastructure (specifically water and sewer). There is still much work to be done on those points. I voted in favour of amalgamation. I see the benefits outweighing the short-term challenges of merging two towns and look forward to doing away with the duplication of work.

I am a strong supporter of business retention and economic development. Prior to my time on council, I was a volunteer member on Black Diamond’s Economic Development Committee. As a councillor I sit on the Intermunicipal Economic Development Committee, a partnership with the Town of Turner Valley. I am the chairperson of the Community Futures Highwood board, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to economic growth and business development.

Since June of 2020, I have had the good fortune to work with the Foothills Tourism Association in promoting this region. Not only have I had the opportunity to meet Black Diamond business owners but business owners throughout the Foothills. I see the tourism industry as a valuable asset to our town and our region and I will continue to promote a visitor economy and regenerative tourism.

Being a member of a municipal council means sharing the work and the successes. I cannot say I’ve accomplished anything on my own, but some things I’ve had a hand in are as follows:

  • Increasing youth participation by volunteering with the students of Oilfields High School through their work on sustainability projects
  • Supporting existing and new businesses through Community Futures Highwood
  • Bolstering tourism and economic development through the Foothills Tourism Association by bringing visitors to the region
  • Opposing mining exploration and mining development on our Eastern Slopes
  • Worked to ensure fairness from municipal government through utility rates and billing
  • Pushed for more expedient infrastructure improvements
  • Fought to ensure responsible development and secure future availability of water
  • Spent time looking at the Land Use Bylaw to ensure a fair and equitable development approval process
  • Encouraged new faces on council in the 2021 election 

This region is and has been a wonderful place for me and my family to call home. It has given us an affordable house, friendly neighbours, community spirit, and free time for me to get out on horseback and explore the nearby trails. I hope you will allow me the opportunity to be your voice on the new Diamond Valley Council.

You can reach me at mzzandry@gmail.com or by phone/text at 403-921-2811.

Bluerock Gallery – coping through COVID

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic began, I wondered how to get the word out about our local businesses. As a Black Diamond Councillor and a member of the recently formed Inter-municipal Economic Development Committee (IEDC), the growth and sustainability of our businesses is top of mind. The IEDC commissioned a report on the state of our business community and the main point that emerged was locals don’t know of all our wonderful companies. I figured with my writing background, I could easily feature a business every few weeks and help spread the word that way. Then the pandemic began. Now it is even more important we support our own, so here goes. To try to keep me impartial, each business I feature gets to pick the next one. I hope you enjoy learning about our community businesses and how they are coping.

Veronica Kloiber

There is something special about Black Diamond’s main street. To imagine it without even one of the shops is a painful exercise, but to think of it without Bluerock Gallery is not possible. The gallery has been a fixture of the downtown, in all its iterations, for decades.

“I’ve asked myself that over and over. Mainstreet now looks great, many beautiful, different stores – destination stores, it would be quite a tragedy to lose anyone,” said Tarek Nemr.

“I can’t imagine what main street would look like without Bluerock,” agreed Shelly Faulkner. “Not just for my own sake, because it’s mine and Tarek’s, both of us really believe in Black Diamond and want to see it thrive. I love Black Diamond; I think it’s a wonderful place.”

Tarek and Shelly are the co-owners of Bluerock Gallery, and in Shelly’s mind not so much owners but caretakers.

“It’s not ownership but stewardship,” she said. “We’ve inherited this amazing thing; people love the gallery.”

It’s comforting to know that neither are alone in steering the ship that is Bluerock Gallery, they can lean on one another for support and that leaning has never been more important.

“He’s the guy at the helm,” explained Shelly, of her business partner. “He’s so business minded and clear headed, I’m just so impressed by him. He is more comfortable being the face of the business. I feel really lucky for both our sakes, we have our roles and it seems to be working.”

If Tarek is the face of the gallery, Shelly is at home in the details and accoutrements. Happiest behind the scenes, she revels in quiet pages and the tactile elements that make up the shop.

“I look after the books – it’s something I have always loved. I take care of the shop, books, cards, textiles and jewellery,” she said.

The pair have been business partners for only a year. Their new roles as owners and caretakers were becoming comfortable and the business was humming along, boasting one of its best years in 2019. Then the pandemic hit.

“It came so quickly, it happened so quickly,” explained Nemr. One day he was placing orders and seemingly the next was locking his doors, in accordance with government regulations.

“On Saturday we opened, on Sunday we heard there were more cases. Monday it was busy but no more than 10 people at a time,” said Nemr. “At the start of pandemic on Monday, the 16th of March I made three orders. On Tuesday I had to cancel orders. It was a state of emergency and all galleries closed,” he explained.

 

“I’m so thankful to be in such an amazing town.”

 

Coming from Syria, Tarek is no stranger to government orders and social upheaval.

“Back home we had a thing that all stores close. The supermarkets closed,” he said.

“The state of panic and emergency is not strange but my past experience prepared me for this because after all the government and people are working together for this,” Tarek said of the Canadian response.

“I’m so thankful to be in such an amazing town,” he said of the local attitude to the government health measures. “I’m really impressed.”

With the doors locked and no customers to marvel in person at their collection, the owners of Bluerock Gallery cooked up a once in, it has never happened sale. Without asking any of their artists to make up the difference, Tarek and Shelly put on a 25 per cent off everything sale over the Easter weekend.

“The sale was amazing – it exceeded my expectations,” marvelled Tarek. “Thank you so much for the support.”

“We were run off our feet, and it was entirely a good thing,” agreed Shelly.

Having closed the shop on the 17th of March and with few online sales coming in, the sale (which was totally online, save for pickup) was just the ticket to not only get a much needed influx of sales but to remind people what kind of place they are missing.

“From March to the 10th of April we had very little amount of sales,” explained Tarek. “Some of our artists depend on sales from galleries to make a living and we are trying not to ask for government assistance.”

Now, with the success of the sale behind them, Tarek and Shelly have not been slacking. Being so dependent on online sales, the pair are committed to posting on Instagram and Facebook each day. As for upcoming plans, Tarek remained secretive.

“I certainly have some plans,” he teased. “The next event is Mother’s Day.”

Even without the bell on the front door to Bluerock Gallery heralding the entrance of customers to greet and delight, the gallery owners are far from bored. They are tidying up and readying for when the restrictions are lifted and they can welcome people into the shop once more.

“As you can imagine we have a lot of holes in the walls,” said Tarek. “We are painting the walls at the gallery. Now is a great time to do so.”

While neither will argue, the world is a strange place right now they are committed to what was entrusted to them – the gallery and are planning to come out the other side of the pandemic ready to reopen.

“There is some element of having to face a challenge. We’re in the middle of it and all you can do is try your best,” said Shelly. “I try to be philosophical about things, the previous owners dealt with a flood year. My hope is we can resume operations as they were before. It’s a totally different place without people in there.”