Sheila Wisdom’s earliest advocacy for conservation in this region dates back to 1978, when in the early days of her career she oversaw youth employment programs through the former Human Resources Development Canada. Through this role, Sheila dispatched many youth to aid significantly with the ERCA projects of the day, while gaining important work experiences that would eventually lead them on their career paths. One specific project that had long-standing and far-reaching impact included a crew of seven young people who completed detailed inventories of all municipal drains in the County. These records were used for ERCA’s review of municipal drainage projects and were an important scientific resource. At least two of the people hired on that project went on to long and careers with Conservation Authorities in Ontario.
From 1989 to 1998, Sheila was a Councillor with the City of Windsor and spent a number of those years on ERCA’s Board of Directors. In her role as City Councillor, she was instrumental in moving the City forward in their detailed inventory of natural areas, which was conducted in partnership with ERCA. She was a staunch advocate for the cleanup of Turkey Creek, and even rented a canoe to survey the area herself. Her leadership of the day continues to leave a legacy, as she was a fierce supporter for the implementation of fish habitat protective design features along the Ambassador Shoreline rather than the traditional straight line approach. Indeed, this modification to thinking has now reshaped much of the shoreline protection along the Detroit River across the region.
In 1996/97, Sheila became the Chair of our Board, and it was during the difficult period following the provincial funding cuts. Sheila is constantly recognized for her leadership in encouraging and facilitating constructive discussion and engagement, and building consensus amongst ERCA’s Board and the public at large. Sheila was instrumental in shaping our first strategic plan – many of the principles that ERCA continues to follow today. Her leadership and vision were pivotal to the success of that effort. She was also key in helping to facilitate community discussion through the acquisition of early development of the Chrysler Canada Greenway.
Even upon retiring from municipal politics, Sheila continued to aid ERCA in a variety of ways, including facilitating many community, board, staff and stakeholder engagement sessions to build consensus and define paths forward. She now serves as a member of the Essex Region Conservation Foundation. Indeed, Sheila’s commitment to building a cleaner and healthier environment in our region and engaging our community in taking action has helped shaped conservation in this region, and we are delighted to honour her as a Conservation Champion.