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Municipal Internship Alumni Spotlight 

Jennifer Kirchner, RPP, MCIP

Planner II  City of Lacombe
Land Use Planner Intern, Athabasca County 2010-2011

Educational Background:

Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Degree from Queen’s University 
Master of Science Degree in Rural Planning and Development from the University of Guelph.

What was the most beneficial part of participating in the Municipal Internship Program?

The best part of the internship program is the variety of work.  I can’t think of any other job that gives you the opportunity to truly discover where your passions lie and prepare you for your future career. 
As a Land Use Planning Intern I got to experience a wide variety of projects ranging from issuing a garage permit to developing an Intermunicipal Development Plan.  By the end of my time as an Intern, I had discovered my skills and talents and I was able to determine what type of career I wanted.

Most memorable moment from your Internship?

I was an intern during the 2011 Slave Lake wildfires and the Town of Athabasca was the major evacuation centre.  I was one of many staff members who were sent over to the evacuation centre to provide assistance.  Being younger and presumably full of energy, I was put in charge of keeping the kids occupied. 
I remember one little girl who helped with the other children and kept them out of trouble.  When we were making friendship bracelets together, this little girl very calmly told me that they would have to live in their dad’s garage because their house burned down.  Despite losing her home, she was still so grateful for what her family had and was willing to help others.
It was a moving experience to be involved at the evacuation centre and an honour to be given the opportunity to help people.  Seeing the fallout of such a large scale emergency made me more aware about the dangers of natural disasters and the scale of damage that can occur. 

Most impactful experience or learning as an intern?

I saw my first bear during my internship!
When I was an intern at the County I was given the daunting task of creating the first Intermunicipal Development Plan (IDP) between the Town and County.  I was to undertake this project without the aid of a consultant, without GIS to build the maps and without any other staff dedicated to the project.  I was also entering the project without any real knowledge or experience with IDPs.

This project could have easily overwhelmed me or had me running scared but I was reassured by the County Manager that this was a project I could handle.  He had faith that I was capable of doing a good job.  The IDP was a learning experience that gave me many firsts in my career: my first experience at Project Management, first experience with running an Open House, writing policy, undertaking long range planning, preparing future land use maps (using Adobe Acrobat) and working with two municipalities with differing needs.  In the final weeks of my internship, both Councils adopted the IDP.

How do you feel your time in the Municipal Internship Program has helped prepare you for your career?

My time as an Intern helped me learn which type of Planning career I truly wanted.  I discovered that I do my best work when I am working on something that interests me.  For myself, I particularly enjoy long range and community planning but my true passion and niche has become heritage planning.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

The highlight of my career has been my lead role in developing and administering the City of Lacombe’s Heritage Management Program.  This multiple award winning project has been a successful initiative that has wide spread community support and has allowed the community to shape heritage preservation.  In three years, we have designated five buildings as Municipal Historic Resources, have two new applications for designation and we anticipate that in 2017 more applications for heritage designation
Being interviewed for the Great Places in Canada Contest
will be submitted.

Because of my role in managing the program, I have become the go-to person for advice on heritage conservation in Alberta.  Not only have I co-hosted an Alberta Urban Municipalities Association webinar on Municipal Heritage Conservation but I am also a member of the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation.


What do you find the most rewarding about working in Municipal Government?

I find it rewarding to work within a community and to see the impact of my work as the community grows.  I have seen vacant land be turned into new neighbourhoods, have been involved in designating heritage buildings for future generations to enjoy and I have developed long range plans that will influence future growth in the community.  It has been amazing to witness a community evolve and grow over a five year period and I anticipate the next five years will be just as rewarding.

Best advice for interns

During their internship

This is an opportunity to explore your options, to learn and to develop a wide variety of skills.  This is your chance to discover what parts of the job truly excite you and this will help shape your career path.
After their internship
Network, network, network.  You will learn quickly that municipal government is a small world and that your counterparts in different communities will be some of your best resources.  You can never anticipate the importance of a business card until you need advice on a project.  Make sure that you always carry your business cards with you and exchange them every chance you get.

Catching up with some of the Alumni interns in my area



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