When Karen Simon came to Red Deer last May she embraced a warm homecoming feeling.
She grew up in Central Alberta, and both her parents still live here.
But coming home is not just to reacquaint herself to her roots. Simon’s return is making local history as well. And as a bonus she arrives with a special role for Alberta Lieutenant Governor Donald Ethell.
Simon, who comes to Red Deer after a 10-year stint in Grande Prairie, is the first female inspector in the history of the RCMP’s law enforcement presence in the Red Deer region. She will join Red Deer city RCMP Insp. Ray Noble as the second in command of the detachment, after Supt. Brian Simpson.
But there is also a connection between coming home and the RCMP. In the late 70’s, while still a high schooler and playing in a fastball league, she was coached by a Red Deer Mountie. It was Cpl. Dale Crewson who encouraged her to seek a law enforcement career.
“He was probably one of the strongest people who got me going in that direction,” says Simon, who now has 29 years of solid RCMP experience under her belt.
This year Simon was appointed an Aide-de-Camp to the Lieutenant Governor. It is a five-year honourary volunteer position, one of 32 across the province. The responsibilities include acting as a liaison officer and advisor between the Lieutenant Governor’s office and organizations, providing advice and assistance to many official functions on behalf of the Lieutenant Governor, ensuring correct level of protocol is followed and attending to the needs of the Lieutenant Governor when required.
“It is a tremendous honour, absolutely, to be part of that. I was approached to see if I would be interested in it,” says Simon. “I then went through the process and did the interviews and was selected and appointed through the Lieutenant Governor.”
Before being interviewed earlier this month Simon concedes she did not think about the significance of her Red Deer appointment to inspector after being promoted from staff sergeant in the spring.
However, she admits to being excited with the new challenge, especially the learning curve she must now navigate at the growing Red Deer City detachment.
“That portion is amazing, to just be able to get on that learning curve and learn so much more, to learn about the detachment here, to see how it is run and see where I can fit in and help move that forward,” says Simon.
“The members here are just phenomenal. We have got a tremendous police organization here and to be part of that and to learn within that has just been tremendous.
“The new building is something that is much needed of course. You will see a tremendous boost in morale with our members because the new building is something very much sought after. The building they are in right now has lots of deficiencies. ”
Simon and the rest of the local detachment will be moving into the new $30 million, two-storey, 8,000 sq.-ft. downtown headquarters, located at 4602 – 51 Ave., beginning in February.
From her new office she will continue her role as the detachment’s operations support officer, which focuses on the administration side of responsibilities, including strategic planning and working with community groups on the annual performance plan. She also handles public complaints that come to the detachment’s attention, as well as the ongoing training programs for members.
“Once a year we have a meeting and invite our strategic partners so they have input on how policing should go in the City, where we should focus on things,” says Simon. “One of our focuses this year is the downtown core, and another one is training and development of our members. We will see if we can make a difference at the end of the year.”
At an individual level, Insp. Simon has already done just that.