Presenters and Speakers

Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador is proud to welcome the following speakers to the stage during the 2023 MNL Conference, Trade Show and AGM.

Claudia De Fuentes

Claudia De Fuentes is an Associate Professor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Sobey School of Business at Saint Mary’s University (SMU). She is the Program Coordinator of the Master of Management in Cooperatives and Credit Unions (MMCCU).  
Her research experience includes innovation in organizations and contributions to place-making, systems of innovation, the creation and use of knowledge in a globalized economy, new forms of academia–industry collaboration, and science, technology, and innovation policy.   
She is currently working on the following research projects: i) impact assessment of innovation policy, ii) urban coalitions for gateway development, iii) the role of the craft wine industry in Nova Scotia on innovation and place-making, and iv) immigration in the agri-food industry.   
She has done the research and lectured internationally in Mexico, Canada, Sweden, Vietnam, and Peru on topics such as innovation systems, innovation policy, innovation management, global innovation, and entrepreneurship. She has supervised Ph.D. and Master’s theses on related topics.   
Her work has received international attention and her publications have received over 1,000 thousand citations (Google Scholar, Jan 2023) by academics and policy-makers. She is an editorial board member of Innovation and Development, the International Journal of Technological Learning, Innovation, and Development, and has guest-edited special issues in Science and Public Policy, Innovation and Development, and International Business Review and for SAGE Publications.   

Dan Bobbett

First elected as Councillor for the Town of Paradise in 2005, Dan Bobbett started his third term as Mayor of the fastest-growing municipality in Newfoundland and Labrador in September 2021.  

Born and raised in the community of Hermitage-Sandyville, Dan and his wife Valerie have called Paradise home for over 29 years. He is currently employed as a Biomedical Engineering Technologist with NL Health Services and thoroughly enjoys his career in the healthcare sector. Prior to being elected to Paradise Town Council, Dan was a long-time volunteer with various community groups. As Mayor, he firmly believes in contributing to the success of his Town and actively participates with volunteer groups, associations, and events going on in Paradise.  

When Dan isn’t working, volunteering or advocating for the Town, you can find him enjoying the trails around Paradise, gardening at his cabin, or being the doting grandfather spoiling his first grandchild, Eloise. 

Deann Spurrell 

Deann Spurrell has been with the Department of Municipal and Provincial Affairs for 16 years and is currently the Manager of Canada Community-Building Fund Administration (formerly the Federal Gas Tax Program).  Most recently, Deann has been given the responsibility of managing the Special Assistance Grant Program and Special Projects. 

Don Hearn

Don Hearn is Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer at the Municipal Assessment Agency, responsible for leading the organization as it continues to provide assessment services to 234 municipalities throughout the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. 

With more than 30 years of experience, Don has vast knowledge and experience with stakeholders and Boards while building diverse, high-performing, talented, and engaged teams. 

Throughout his career, Don has been involved in all aspects of real property assessment and valuation of residential, commercial, industrial, and institutional properties. He currently oversees the Agency’s operations while providing direction to the executive team and supervisors. 

Don graduated from the Appraisal/Assessment Technology program at the College of the North Atlantic in 1990. He began his career with the former Newfoundland Department of Municipal Affairs, Assessment Division the following year. Don is an accredited member of the Institute of Municipal Assessors and holds the M.I.M.A. designation. He has held several positions on the local executive, including Chair and District 10 Director. Nationally, Don is Vice-Chair of the IMA’s Accreditation Committee. 

Recently, Don completed the Institute of Corporate Directors Program and earned his ICD.D designation. Granted by the Institute of Corporate Directors, the ICD.D designation represents a lifelong commitment to excellence in the boardroom, a desire to stay current, and to be a more effective director.   

Dylan Sweetland

Dylan Sweetland is the GIS Coordinator at the Municipal Assessment Agency, responsible for the design, development, delivery, and maintenance of GIS applications.   
Dylan supports the Agency as a technological leader of the GIS team.  He is skilled in Spatial Databases, Cartography, ArcGIS and Geomatics and has a detailed knowledge of GIS projects, technologies, and best practices.   
Prior to working at the Agency, Dylan was the GIS Technician for a local forestry and geomatics company within the capital city of St. Johns.   
Dylan has a Bachelor of Technology from Memorial University of Newfoundland, as well as a diploma in Civil Engineering Technology from the College of the North Atlantic.  He also holds a diploma in Ocean Mapping from the Fisheries and Marine Institute of Memorial University. 

Felix Vandergrift

Felix Vandergrift is the Events Outreach Officer for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Municipal Asset Management Program. Felix is passionate about creating meaningful and long-lasting relationships between individuals and municipalities that foster collaboration and equitable community development. His background through his education and work history covers a range of topics including food security, climate change, environmental justice, Indigenous Treaty Rights promotion and protection, sustainable development, and biodiversity. Felix is from Nova Scotia, and currently resides in Truro with his husband, and is working on developing a homestead farm on his property.  

Flora Jackman 

As Manager of Retention of the Health Professional Recruitment and Retention Office, Department of Health and Community Services, Flora Jackman provides strategic leadership through capacity building and engagement throughout the province. Flora brings a broad range of experience to her role with over 15 years of community development, non-profit, immigration and credential recognition aimed at supporting individuals with their lived experience through their career pathways.    

Gary Thompson

Dr. Gary Thompson has been involved in the applied research in Newfoundland and Labrador for the past 20 years.  He has 35 years of national and international research experience, has published in respected international journals, and is a registered professional geoscientist.  He continues to work extensively with all sectors in Newfoundland and Labrador including non-profits, industry partners, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, and Memorial University. 

Ian McCormack

Ian McCormack has a unique passion for good governance and lives in the professional space between elected officials and organizations’ senior management. His interest in local government, libraries, housing, post-secondary education, health, non-profit organizations and community safety comes together in a broad range of experience and insight as President of Strategic Steps Inc. and author of two books: “Who’s Driving The Grader” and “The DNA of Great Leaders”. Ian is nationally accredited as a Certified Management Consultant (CMC) and a certified change management practitioner. 

Jean Michel Montsion

Jean Michel Montsion is Director of the Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies at York University and Associate Professor in the Canadian Studies program at Glendon College. Dr. Montsion’s research focuses gateway cities, and notably intersecting questions of ethnicity, mobility and urban development.  

Justin Campbell

Justin Campbell is a human rights organizer with a specialized focus on racism, discrimination, and colonialism. Drawing on a diverse professional background in business, government, and non-profit, Justin holds the position of Director of Research and Strategic Partnerships with First Light St. John’s Friendship Centre. Working primarily through First Voice, he leads the organization’s political advocacy efforts while also coordinating public policy research to promote systemic change for the benefit of the urban Indigenous community. He holds a Bachelor of Humanities in Human Rights and a Master of Arts in Political Science, both from Carleton University in Ottawa. 

Kelly Smith

Kelly Smith is the Director of Corporate Services at Municipal Assessment Agency. She is a senior executive responsible for the Corporate Services Division of the Municipal Assessment Agency. This includes, but not limited to, financial management; information technology; corporate programming; policy and legislative compliance; geographic information systems; data maintenance; administrative support; internal and external communications; human resources management; strategic planning and regional office management. 
Kelly holds a Diploma in Public Administration from the College of the North Atlantic and a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Resources and Labour Relations from Athabasca University. She is a Certified Disability Management Professional, Registered Professional Recruiter, and Canadian Management Professional. Prior to joining the Municipal Assessment Agency in 2017, Kelly gained over 15 years of progressive experience in human resources, strategic planning, financial management and business administration in both the public and private sector. 

Kevin Casey  

Kevin is a graduate of Memorial University’s Faculty of business with a Bachelor of Commerce degree (1992). Kevin has worked in senior sales and marketing roles with Labatt and in 2001 cofounded The IDEA Factory which he led for 16 years. In 2016, Kevin stepped aside from this day-to-day role with Idea Factory to join Cal LeGrow as Senior VP with the objective of reenergizing the sales culture, differentiating the brand, and ensuring the brokerage is ready to deal with the digital future. 

In August 2018, Kevin was appointed as a shareholder and Partner with Cal LeGrow and his role remains squarely focused on growing the sales culture, leading the marketing efforts, and finding new ways to enhance the client experience. 

Krista Parsons  

Krista began her career in the insurance industry in June 2020 after more than 15 years in the municipal government sector. Through her employment as Executive Director with Professional Municipal Administrators (PMA) and the Municipal Training and Development Corporation (MTDC), her thorough knowledge of the local government sector made her an ideal candidate to join the Municipal team at Cal LeGrow Insurance. 

Her strong work ethic, attention to detail, and thorough communication skills make her an invaluable asset to the Cal LeGrow team. Since joining Cal LeGrow, Krista has obtained honors status in the Canadian Accredited Insurance Broker designation program. 

Lisa Niblock

Lisa Niblock is the CAO for the Town of Paradise. With a background in finance, marketing and project management, Lisa Niblock’s 25-year career spans the private and municipal sectors.  

A native of this province, Lisa lived in Ontario for the first part of her working life, where she had her first foray into the municipal sector completing a work term with the City of Hamilton. From there, she held positions with Westinghouse and a Fortune 500 company before returning to this province with her husband and two children. When Lisa moved home, her career took her back to the municipal sector at the Town of Torbay. In 2015, she joined the Town of Paradise, and as Chief Administrative Officer, she is responsible for leading the staff of one of the fastest-growing municipalities in the province. With a Bachelor of Management, a Diploma (co-op) in Business-Marketing, and a Lean Six Sigma Executive Green Belt designation, under her guidance and leadership, the Town has developed a progressive strategic plan and implemented several continual improvement processes.   

Lisa and her husband Andrew live in Conception Bay South with their two university-going children and four furry pets. In her spare time, she enjoys walking her dogs, yoga, hiking, and quality time at her summer home.  

Marina Cuselli

Marina Cuselli is a PhD Candidate at Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador. She is originally from Verona in Northern Italy. She completed her B.Sc. in Environmental Engineering at the University of Trento (Italy) and her M.Sc. in Marine Sciences at the University of Milano Bicocca. Her thesis work concentrated on coastal management practices in Barbados and the Maldives. For her PhD research she is carrying out multidisciplinary work by looking at the use of nature-based infrastructure as a means to enhance coastal resilience and mitigate coastal erosion on the Avalon Peninsula, Newfoundland. 

Marla Desat

Marla Desat is a Technical Outreach Officer with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC). She delivers strategic and technical outreach and knowledge translation activities to support the efforts completed under the Climate Resilient Buildings and Core Public Infrastructure (2016-2021) and underway under the Climate Resilient Built Environment (2021-2026) Initiative. These initiatives will provide the knowledge to adapt public infrastructure, inform changes to building and infrastructure codes, and create guides, standards, tools, and technical solutions for climate resilience.  

Marla holds a Bachelor of Applied Science, Chemical Engineering from the University of Waterloo. She has a decade of experience working in the public sector on climate change and air pollution. She began her career working in regulatory development and administration at Environment and Climate Change Canada. She then joined the Standards Council of Canada where she delivered standards policy and programs related to environment and climate change, infrastructure, and clean technology.  

Megan Hayes 

Dr. Megan Hayes is a family doctor with over 15 years experience in clinical work, research and leadership roles throughout our province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Since 2022 she has been the Assistant Deputy Minister of Health Professional Recruitment and Retention, Department of Health and Community Services and is committed to supporting health professionals and learners in their recruitment journeys and choosing to stay and work in meaningful ways in Newfoundland and Labrador. 

Nic Fairbridge

Nic Fairbridge is a community-engaged researcher who explores how municipal and local policy impacts community health and well-being. He is a Research Associate within the Office of Professional and Educational Development, Faculty of Medicine, Memorial University. He supports the development of the Harbour Farmstead as a holistic rural food system designed around net-zero frameworks, the Food Action Network, and the Regeneration Conference – all focused on local/regional community food research and initiatives. 

Noreen Golfman

Dr. Noreen Golfman retired from the Department of English in 2022, Memorial University, and has since been honoured with the title Professor Emeritus. She has worked with several arts organizations as a board member in St John’s, was the founding director of the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival, the second-longest women’s film festival in the world, and chaired the board of the festival for 30 years. She is also currently the President of the MUN Cinema Series, Vice Chair of the Newfoundland Labrador Film Development Corporation (PictureNL), and co-chair of Business and Arts NL. She is Chair of the Board of the Winterset Literary Festival which takes place every August in Eastport, Newfoundland. Noreen worked as a freelance broadcaster, commentator, and film reviewer for CBC Radio and TV. She was inducted into the ArtsNL Hall of Honour in 2013. In 2019 she received ACTRA’s Woman of the Year Award and she was inducted into the Order of Newfoundland and Labrador in October this year. 

Peter V. Hall

Peter V. Hall is Professor of Urban Studies at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. He received his doctorate in city and regional planning from the University of California at Berkeley. His research examines the connections between port cities, seaports and logistics, as well as community, local economic, and employment development. His publications include “Integrating Seaports and Trade Corridors” (Ashgate, 2011) and “Cities, Regions and Flow” (Routledge, 2013). He is an Associate Editor of the Journal of Transport Geography. 

Rachel Deslauriers

Rachel Deslauriers leads the Program Outreach team at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM). Her team actively promotes FCM’s Green Municipal Fund (GMF), a $1.65 billion endowment from the Government of Canada created to drive sustainable innovation in the municipal sector by providing significant support to Canadian municipalities.  

Her skills in sustainable development and policy analysis have helped many Canadian municipalities receive project funding to transition to sustainable solutions in energy, transportation, land use, circular economy and water; reinforce their decision-making process for infrastructure investments; and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.  

Rachel holds a Bachelor of Environmental Studies, a Bachelor of Geography and a Master in Geography from the University of Ottawa. Before joining FCM, Rachel has worked in strategic planning with innovative municipalities, as well as with the Federal government.  

Rod Hynes

Rod Hynes is the Municipal Access and Privacy Analyst with the ATIPP Office.  He has over 13 years of access to information and protection of privacy experience having worked at Eastern Health, Department of Natural Resources and Department of Industry Energy and Technology as a coordinator and as privacy policy specialist with the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner. Before making the shift to access and privacy Rod worked for many years in business management, as a paralegal with a large Atlantic Canadian law firm and as an investigator with the Office of the Citizens’ Representative. Rod was born and raised in a small community in Trinity Bay and is appreciative of the uniqueness of municipal concerns as it relates to access to information and protection of privacy.  Rod is a certified privacy professional with the International Association of Privacy Professionals, a certified access and privacy professional with the Canadian Institute of Access and Privacy Professionals and recently completed the UNESCO International Access to Information Certification. Fun fact, during the first COVID lockdown Rod became a certified access to information practitioner for New Zealand (although he has never been there). 

Sean Wiltshire

Sean Wiltshire is an international award-winning diversity expert and advocate. If you have heard Sean speak you know that woven into all of Sean’s presentations is his ability to tell a story to share and educate.  

Be it of finding jobs in the garment factories of Bangladesh or working with crown corporations to build a diversity plan that really works, he is known to tell it like it is, but always with a belief that we can, and should, do better.  

From St. John’s to Bombay, from Vancouver to Kathmandu, Sean has been helping audiences see diversity as part of a business solution.  

Professionally, for the last 31 years Sean has been the Chief Executive Officer of Avalon Employment Inc (AEI) – an employment agency for individuals with disabilities that also has built a large social enterprise that does over $154 million in payroll for other not for profits and local businesses.  

Sean is a past President of the Provincial Regional Economic Development Association and was a member of the Ministerial Committee on Regional Renewal for the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador has also been a member of two Federal Ministerial Advisory Committees. He is an Alumnus of The Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference (2000), and currently is a member of the National Executive Board.  

In 2017 Sean was at the United Nations in Vienna; Austria to accept the “Zero Project Award” as part of the team From York University working on employment and diversity issues in Southeast Asia.  

Once again, in February 2021 Sean and his organization won the prestigious Zero Project Award for their Autism Employment Inclusion Pilot, as one of the top 75 Diversity and Inclusionary Practices in the World. This award was presented at the United Nations in February 2021. 

Stephan Nieweler

Stephan Nieweler is a seasoned professional in the planning and transportation sectors, currently engaged as a planning and transportation instructor, and doctoral candidate in the Department of Geography at Simon Fraser University.  While employed as a planning professional, he provided expert advice on numerous multi-modal transport studies, rapid transit projects and transit-oriented development strategies while based throughout Canada, the UK and India.  Upon returning to academia, Stephan focused his research on the opportunities and constraints associated with downtown revitalization in small communities experiencing renewed economic growth, through the theoretical lens of path dependency.  As a result of personal connections to Newfoundland, his research and travels have taken him to communities throughout the province.      

Stephen Mercer 

Stephen Mercer, CPA, CA, is currently the Director of Municipal Finance with the Department of Municipal and Provincial Affairs. Stephen joined the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador in 2009. Since that time he has held various leadership positions in the Department of Finance, Executive Council, and most recently the Department of Municipal and Provincial Affairs. Stephen also serves on the Board of Directors for the St. John’s Chapter of the Financial Management Institute. Stephen holds a Bachelor of Commerce (Co-operative) from Memorial University and is a Chartered Professional Accountant. 

TA Loeffler

Dr. TA Loeffler brings 30 years of expertise leading people through significant life-changing experiences to every facet of her work. Her work and adventures have taken her to 52 different countries and all seven continents. TA has completed 6 and 4/5 of “The Seven Summits,” the highest peak on all seven continents.  In 2020, TA was named to the “Canada’s 90 Greatest Explorers List” by Canadian Geographic. TA’s work in the area of adapted outdoor activity, including the founding of the Newfoundland and Labrador Outdoor Inclusion Summit, has impacted the practices of many agencies that work with persons with disabilities within her province. TA is a recognized expert in the province regarding physical activity, outdoor recreation, and gender. As a Professor of Outdoor Recreation and Physical Education at Memorial University of Newfoundland, TA has developed a reputation for excellence in experiential education because her students are more likely to be outside chasing icebergs than sitting in a classroom. TA inspires hope, possibility, and vision in those whose lives she touches. Over the past fifteen years, TA has shared her message of “Big Dreams, Big Goals” with over 100,000 youth in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.