Judy Allan is already at The Carrot when I arrive to meet her. She is a lively person, wearing bright colours and with a bright smile to match. People approach her with hugs and happy greetings. It is easy to see that she is well-known at this social hub.
As the city’s Avenue Initiative coordinator, the city’s revitalization project for 118 Avenue, Allan was in the neighbourhood regularly and has become well-acquainted with the people. She worked with community members on the Avenue Initiative, and left her mark in her own way. It shows in the way she is received. She retired on June 15.
According to Allan, this has been a favourite community in all her years as a community developer. “I love the level of mobilization in this community. The initiatives I worked on were community-driven—not just the city delivering services. It’s been amazing to be a part of it,” she said.
Allan said she has always enjoyed community development. Before her role as the Avenue Initiative Coordinator, she worked in the Green Shack program, eventually becoming a community recreation coordinator. When the Avenue Initiative began, it fell to her department to consult on the project.
“We spent a year consulting [with] the community about their concerns and issues. The Avenue looked much different at the time, and community members were concerned about increasing its vibrancy and safety. The focus resulting from consultation became safety, streetscape, beautification, cleanliness, and development,” said Allan. “Our first efforts focused on aesthetics and safety.”
The project began with a focus on building new, wider sidewalks and improved lighting. Those changes made a big impact. People felt safer walking on the sidewalks, which had been quite narrow before. Better lighting increased a sense of safety, but it also moved dangerous or criminal activities off 118 Avenue. The wider sidewalks narrowed the avenue, which slowed traffic considerably.
A year later, in 2006, Allan said that “the arts community started to bubble up. Now it has a whole momentum and life of its own.”
As a self-described introvert who loves people and especially enjoys interacting one-on-one, Allan said she feels proud of the community for its efforts and ability to mobilize and enact real, positive change. She is modest about the impact she has had as a leader here, insisting that “the project transcends me and my contribution. It wasn’t just me doing things. It was me supporting people in the community as they made changes happen.”
She explained her style of leadership is more supportive. “Seeing how people grow and become strong leaders. I love that.” She continued, “I really value the relationships I’ve built. I’m not a very controlling leader. I lead from behind. I like to help people see their talents, because everybody has something to offer.”
Allan is excited for the community to have a new person in the role after all these years. She emphasizes the importance of “creating sustainability and transitioning when leadership changes.”
For the time being, Allan is happy to be at home, enjoying the summer with her partner. She loves her garden and her dogs, and loves spending time with them. She will continue to volunteer at a local rescue organization, where she is a board member.
“Don’t think I’m done,” said Allan. After a well-deserved rest, she plans to enjoy traveling. Her love of travel takes her off the beaten track, as she prefers to make her own plans rather than book guided tours. British Columbia, Chile, and Ecuador are possible destinations in the near future. As a traveler, she loves to stay in one place long enough to “get to know the city.”
Allan contemplates getting involved in community development abroad, but has not made any specific plans to date. “I’m excited to say, ‘I don’t know,’” she laughed.
We wish her well, wherever her new path takes her.
Featured Image: Judy Allan served the community for many years as the Avenue Initiative coordinator. | Rebecca Lippiatt
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