Women in Municipal Finance Series

For 2024, MFOA is celebrating the trailblazers and resilient women in Ontario's municipal finance sector. On March 8, we kicked off our "Women in Municipal Finance Series" with a lively panel discussion and will continue the momentum with monthly articles featuring the industry's leaders and up-and-coming professionals. Check back every month through this webpage, our e-Newsletter, or our LinkedIn page.

Women in Municipal Finance Series: Celebrating Every Win with Trilbee Stirling-Kattler

As part of our “Women in Municipal Finance Series”, MFOA is highlighting inspiring and trailblazing women across Ontario’s municipal finance sector. This month, we met with Trilbee Stirling-Kattler, Chief Administrative Officer at the Municipality of Red Lake. Trilbee discusses her journey into the municipal finance sector and the importance of celebrating wins – big or small.

Journey into Municipal Finance

Trilbee: My start in municipal finance was 100% by fluke. In high school I took an accounting class and swore up and down that I would never need to know about debits and credits. When I became a single mom, I went back to school for a diploma focusing on accounting and eventually started the CGA program in Manitoba. After living in Winnipeg, I moved to my hometown with a population of less than 1000 and took a finance role with the municipality. I assisted the municipality through amalgamation in 2015 and eventually stepped into the role of CAO.

I parlayed my experience and moved to an organization that worked with municipalities on organizational effectiveness and restructuring operations after amalgamations, until I moved to Ontario to the Municipality of Red Lake in 2020. I began working at a local start-up mine until the Treasurer position opened up at Red Lake. Just like that I was back in the municipal finance sector. Red Lake has a population of 4100 with a large transient work force based on the local mining activity, which will eventually include three operating mines. These mines will staff anywhere from 300 to 1000 people once they are in operation. There’s a lot of cool stuff happening in Red Lake!

The Importance of Celebrating Big and Small Wins

Trilbee: I like to celebrate the small wins with my team, because I want people to recognize their achievements. When you look at the way municipal accounting is done versus the private sector, it takes a big learning curve to understand the different funds. When someone balances a fund for the first time I celebrate it. In our line of work we don’t celebrate our wins enough, but we need to do it more often. We should celebrate not only team wins, but individual successes and municipal-wide successes. For example, we just finished a $4 million project in one of our communities, and it came in on time and on budget – that’s huge!

Want to Join the Municipal Sector? Just Go for It!

Trilbee: The interesting thing about working in local government is that you make a strong impact on people’s daily lives. Working in the municipal sector is a rewarding experience – if you’re interested in helping others in your community, just go for it!

On Making Your Voice Heard

Trilbee: Trust yourself, and be gentle in your approach. People may question your abilities as a young woman. Make sure you know what you’re talking about, and be confident with yourself. Even if you don’t feel confident, act like it because you own it.

There will be times where things are tough, but come from a place of understanding, and be gentle in how you get your point across. If you’re respectful of other’s opinions, come from a good place, and understand why you’re doing what you’re doing, then other people will do the same.

Fighting Imposter Syndrome Through Community

Trilbee: As a society, women are often told to sit there and look pretty. When you try to reconcile that with all the good work you’re trying to accomplish for your community, it can make you second guess whether you’re good enough for the job. The best way I’ve combatted imposter syndrome is by building a strong community of women who build each other up, are supportive of one another, and bring different skills to the table.

Back in July, we hired a new Director of Operations who previously worked in the mining sector. She’s an amazing and positive person who has helped me as I work through the challenges in my new CAO role, and she reminds me that mistakes are not the end of the world.

When you have a group of people with diverse skills, you can rely on one another for different perspectives – you don’t want everyone to think the same way. Find people that you trust – people who will both build you up, and aren’t afraid to call you out when it’s needed. You have the right skills, and you’re capable for the task at hand - a supportive community will remind you and reassure you of this.


Women in Municipal Finance Series -  Past Articles


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