Love brought the Town of Collingwood’s new planning director to the shores of South Georgian Bay.
For this week’s edition of People of Collingwood we spoke with Summer Valentine, 43, the new director of planning, building and economic development with the Town of Collingwood.
Q: Where did you grow up?
A: I was born in Sault Ste. Marie, but I spent most of my formative years in Hamilton.
Q: Where did you attend college and university?
A: I have an honours bachelor of science degree from the University of Toronto in biology and environmental science.
I did my master's at Queen’s University in urban and regional planning.
Q: Did you always know you wanted to go into planning?
A: No. My undergrad is in biology, and I thought I was headed to the life of a scientist.
I knew from an early age that I wanted to contribute to a more sustainable life on our planet. I realized quite quickly as I moved through my educational career that rather than doing that from a lab or the middle of a forest, I could probably have more of an impact if I were to connect more strongly with people and their communities.
That’s what got me out of the lab coat and into the office.
Q: After you finished school, where did life take you at that point?
A: Because I have an adventurous spirit, I did a couple of years of work out in Halifax, N.S. with a regional economic development organization.
Then, family and loneliness perhaps brought me back to Ontario. I had a 15-year career with the District of Muskoka in land-use planning at the municipal level.
Q: What made you want to take the leap to come to Collingwood?
That’s probably a bit of an odd response.
I fell in love with the Town of Collingwood. The bay nestled at the bottom of the mountain is beautiful. The recreational lifestyle that Collingwood affords people, the historic downtown, the grain terminals... it all comes together in a very attractive way for me.
I also fell in love with a Collingwood resident.
I have been living part-time in Collingwood for the past three and a half years and we recently got married at one of the local vineyards outside of town.
On the professional side of things, I had been really impressed with the senior management team at the Town of Collingwood. They are an innovative and energetic group, in particular, CAO (Sonya) Skinner. I was deeply impressed by her approach to public service and the transparency she brings to municipal government. It sealed the deal.
Q: Coming to Collingwood, there are some unique planning challenges here that council and staff have had to contend with over the past few years. What are your first impressions of planning in the Town of Collingwood?
A: I know Collingwood has faced its share of challenges, but right now, I see an opportunity.
We’re updating our Official Plan. We’re looking at rectifying the water capacity issue, and we’re coming out of a global pandemic. I think those three things can triangulate well together to improve the sustainability of development in Collingwood and tie to economic recovery.
I’m really excited to be part of that opportunity.
Q: Are there any general misconceptions about planning you’ve had to face in your career so far that you’d like to correct?
Planning is more than bricks, mortar, roads and pipes.
Fundamentally, it’s about building a community and considers the people – past and present – the land, animals, plants and water.
The built environment can impact our health, sense of belonging, social connections, job opportunities, footprint on the earth and much more. Because of how planning can influence our lives, I would encourage all residents and visitors to Collingwood to become engaged in the land-use planning process.
Let’s start talking!
Q: What kinds of things do you like to do outside of work?
A: I like to do all kinds of things outdoors with my husband, daughter, stepson and step-dog. We love things like swimming, running, hiking, biking, really anything outdoors. We take full advantage of Collingwood’s trails.
My true love is dressage horseback riding.
When it’s raining, I like to cook and read.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like people in Collingwood to know about you?
A: I’m thrilled to join the team at the Town of Collingwood to serve the community and really get to know the on-the-ground issues that folks may have related to land-use planning.
The pandemic has made this difficult, but I’m looking forward to getting out and about and talking with community members.
For our feature People of Collingwood, we’ll be speaking with interesting people who are either from or are contributing to the Collingwood community in some way, letting them tell their own stories in their own words. This feature will run on CollingwoodToday every weekend. If you’d like to nominate or suggest someone to be featured in People of Collingwood, email [email protected].