Dawn Low is the first female CAO for the City of Revelstoke. (Jocelyn Doll - Revelstoke Review)

Dawn Low is the first female CAO for the City of Revelstoke. (Jocelyn Doll - Revelstoke Review)

120 years later, first female CAO appointed in Revelstoke

International Women’s Day was first celebrated on March 19, 1911, in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. The United Nations later started celebrating on March 8.

The theme for International Women’s Day this year is Choose to Challenge.

“We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality,” reads the IWD website. “We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world.”

For more information see internationalwomensday.com.

Thirty-two years before she became the first female chief administrative officer for the city, Dawn Low was a high school student sitting behind Marlene Blayney taking notes on a stenotype.

Low studied office administration in Grade 12 and worked with Blayney, who was the executive assistant to Revelstoke’s corporate administrator at the time.

“She was a really hard, strong lady, but I looked up to her,” Low said.

But it wasn’t there that Low’s career started with the city.

After high school she got her business degree in Kelowna.

Soon Low got married and had kids.

She had to balance work as a stay at home mom by owning a road building business with her husband. Low was in charge of payroll and accounting.

When the marriage crumbled, she was thrown back into the workforce.

“It was exciting,” she recalled.

READ MORE: Inspiring women: one Revelstoke woman shows the power of parental support

She was working at CIBC and taking courses at Okanagan College when a job opened up in the city’s finance department.

Thinking it was a good opportunity to provide for her children, she applied.

“One of the payroll clerks remembered me from my high school days with the city.”

From the finance department she moved to a planning assistant role

At the time, the planning department was growing, Low recalled, so she went back to school to be a level one building inspector. But then the 2008 recession hit and the position she was vying for was cut.

“There was a lot going on. I look back at that now and think, ‘How did I do that? How did I go that hard that long?,’” she said.

“But it is amazing what you can do when you are motivated and determined.”

In 2009 Low moved “upstairs” to the corporate administration department. While there had been a couple of staff leave and though everyone was doing their best, Dawn said there was a lot of work to be done. She remembers feeling like she was in over her head.

“There was just so much responsibility up there and I felt I needed to do a deep dive into the technical aspect of the job,” she said.

So, while she moved through ranks from administrative assistant, to executive assistant to director, she studied local government administration and leadership development at Capilano University.

During her studies she nurtured an interest in the CAO role, so when Allan Chabot resigned and council asked if she was ready, she stepped up to the plate.

She filled in as interim and then acting CAO before officially appointed in December 2019.She is the city’s first female CAO since Revelstoke’s establishment in 1899.

A quick survey of 30 municipalities in the Interior shows there are just three other women holding a top job in a city.

Of the seven regional districts in the area it appears there are no female CAOs.

In the team photos from her high school days Low can be found as a coach, in full getup, rather than a player. “It’s kind of neat to be in this position, it is very similar to coaching. You see the big picture, you have a vision and you try and take all these talented well meaning people and guide them to become champions for the community.”

READ MORE: Inspiring women: It was a men’s world – until Revelstoke’s Mary Clayton broke into it


 

@RevelstokeRevue
editor@revelstoketimesreview.com

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Dawn Low is the first female CAO for the City of Revelstoke. (Jocelyn Doll/Revelstoke Review)

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