As she brushes her teeth each morning, Tina Cresswell looks out of her window and sees the sign “Joy” on a neighbour’s door across the street.
It makes her feel good and grounded, prompts her to think about her neighbour, and is a reminder of what is important in life and why we get up in the morning.
It is also an example, she says, of what a small town brings – an intimate connection with others, a sense of togetherness.
“Community is what drives me,” she says. “People and the community we live in.
“If you get so much back from a community, you have to give. This is not a one-way street. Community is a two-way street.
“You can’t just sit there on your couch and throw pot-shots. If you don’t like something, you’ve got to go and help fix it.”
Cresswell says she and her partner, Dave Turner, try to live by the saying “If it’s going to be, it’s up to me”.
“So, if you want something to happen, you have to be part of making it happen.”
The saying perhaps explains Cresswell’s community involvement since arriving in Maple Creek from Grasswood, south of Saskatoon, 16 years ago.
She was on Maple Creek Town Council from 2009 to 2016, chairing the Protective Services Committee and Utilities Committee, and was active in economic development and heritage preservation.
She is also president of the Maple Creek and District Chamber of Commerce and chair of the Cypress-Hills Grasslands Destination Area (CGDA), an economic development entity.
If she wins the September 22 by-election, she plans to step down from the Chamber board, but continue heading the CGDA, which is in the middle of a project on sustainability.
As a business owner, of course, she will still attend Chamber meetings.
Cresswell, who runs The Daily Grind, says her experience in community development, governance and business lies behind her decision to run again for Council.
“I think they need some experience at the Council table. I don’t want to cast any aspersions, but I think there are some points of view that I could bring to the table, some alternate solutions that I could bring to the table that maybe they haven’t thought about. I’ve had a lot of years to think about this stuff and maybe they just haven’t thought about it yet, how to do what needs to be done.”
Cresswell says the steep rise in business taxes – despite commercial ratepayers being told that increases would be minimal – influenced her decision.
Born in Montreal, Cresswell spent part of her early life in the United States, moving to Wisconsin, then Massachusetts.
Her father, John Goods, was a leather man, who managed tanneries and worked as a consultant for a few years. Her mother, Margaret, was a teacher, who laid great emphasis on critical thinking.
It was in Dover-Foxcroft, Maine, that Cresswell met Miss Wilson, a tall, lanky, Grade 3 teacher, who was to have a lifelong influence on her. Miss Wilson saw the potential of her young student, whom she called a “born leader”.
The family moved to Spain when Cresswell was 12, before returning to Canada about four years later.
“I’ve been in Canada ever since, although I’ve moved around a lot.”
Cresswell served as a school trustee in British Columbia, learning how a governance board should function, and did communications and media training for politicians in the Northwest Territories. Communications, she believes, is key in creating harmony.
“If there isn’t good communication between partners, rumours start and then you have a breakdown in trust. You have a division in the community and we are not working together any more.”
Cresswell and Dave, a safety consultant, went on to live on an acreage in Grasswood.
Until they came to Maple Creek, the longest Cresswell had lived anywhere was about four and-a-half years.
“Maple Creek grabbed me and just wouldn’t let go,” she says.
She came to Maple Creek in 2004 to buy the general store and gas bar at Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, commuting from Grasswood.
By 2005, she knew she wanted to live in Maple Creek, and bought a house in Aspen Street, where she still lives.
Seeing business potential in the town, she and Dave opened The Daily Grind in October, 2005. Less than two years later, they opened The Star restaurant off Pacific Avenue. They now had three businesses on the go.
“I got a little wild there for a while,” she laughs. “A little crazy.”
In 2010, the couple sold the park store to the Currahs.
So what was it about Maple Creek that grabbed her?
Cresswell mentions that youthful period spent in Dover-Foxcroft, Maine.
“I think that time in that small town built me, it made me who I am. And this town, Maple Creek, is reminiscent of Dover-Foxcroft.
“I think small towns are driven by people. Small towns are about people.
“They are not about process and traffic and things like that. They are about the people that live next door and across the street. They are about the people that walk into your shop, that’s what small towns bring to me, and I’m pretty well all about people.”
This sense of togetherness, says Cresswell, should be felt on Town Council; ratepayers must be viewed as partners in the community, not just as people who fund programs.
“We have really smart, well-educated people here who can help if there are problems that are thorny and need to be fixed. Council has to draw on those people.
“Council is very much within its legislated rights to ask those people to committee tables, ask them to serve.
“Many towns have lay people on committees, not to vote, but to give them input.”