Institute president keeps a busy schedule

RUSSELL, Man. — When one door closes behind Joan Clement, another one is already ajar.

Since retiring from Manitoba Agriculture, where she managed 4-H for the province, she has opened a bed and breakfast in her home, promoted tourism as president of the Russell Chamber of Commerce and served as co-ordinator of a program placing international students in community homes.

“I don’t do what others do, like golf. I get my satisfaction out of things I’m able to do,” said Clement.

A job in extension in Russell, Man., was a logical choice after graduating from the University of Saskatchewan’s college of home economics.

“I didn’t need a car to come here,” she said.

Clement has since embraced the college’s farewell challenge to graduates to give back to the profession, serving as a school trustee and president of the Manitoba Women’s Institute.

Already looking ahead to when her WI term ends in two years, she plans to commit more time to projects through the Associated Country Women of the World.

She will also devote more time to her own B & B, which has accommodated as many as 10 guests, and visit others.

In retirement, the longtime advocate of rural tourism “put money where my mouth is” and started the business after seeing a need for more accommodation in the region.

“In the business of serving the public, you have to provide good service and be able to meet the needs of the travelling public,” said Clement, who with her husband, Ron, has hosted travellers from around the world.

Marcia Rowat, economic development officer with Asessippi Parkland Economic Development, said Clement took an active involvement, noting the region’s tourism committee has grown to 70 people from two or three in the beginning.

“She is one of those people who takes on a variety of roles and isn’t afraid to offer her time,” said Rowat, adding that Clement also promoted tourism at trade shows and attended training events.

“We do have community leaders here that do step up. Joan is one of these people who would step up and help out as much as she can,” she said.

The Clements, who operated a GM dealership in Russell, believe business has a responsibility to its community.

“It’s important that people don’t sit back and say they can’t do anything because then I think we get what we deserve,” said Clement, who ran unsuccessfully as a Liberal candidate provincially.

Her town has undergone a major facelift and now sports eight lofty arches recycled from a rink in Dauphin and originally fabricated in Russell. The development of the Asessippi ski hill and increased convention facilities and accommodation have increased tourism locally and created jobs locally in the farming community.

“I’m the kind of person who hears (of) something being done and I think why not here,” said Clement.

She said having the ability to host conferences is a big plus to organizations such as MWI that hosted its annual conference here in April.

“We didn’t have to worry about accommodation and food, just had to worry about the program,” she said.

Clement said MWI, with its roots in food safety, has a renewed role to play as people focus more on how their food is produced. During her term, she also plans to focus on membership renewal, connecting with immigrant women and women working off farm and opportunities to work with school boards.

Her other involvements have included the United Church, mentally challenged adults and the Frank Skinner arboretum board.

She said the international student co-ordinator position has allowed the Clements to broaden their understanding of Canada as they help students settle into a different culture.

“You’re learning more about Canada yourself as you try to explain it to somebody else,” she said.

She conceded that such a busy life comes at a cost, citing the years she commuted from her job in Winnipeg on weekends while raising four children.

“In doing stuff for the community, you sacrifice a lot for family and personally,” she said.

Clement felt the experience helped cultivate independence in her family.

“The kids are all an interesting group of individuals. We fostered their independence and that’s taken them a long way,” she said, citing career paths ranging from architecture to the air force.

“You deal with what you create,” she said.

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