Ottawa, April 15th, 2008
Louise and I just completed a two-day whirlwind trip to Jefferson City, Missouri, visiting their Veterans Ombudsman. While we were there we witnessed a phenomenon that the region is famous for - a tornado! I call Pat Rowe Kerr, the Missouri Veterans Ombudsman, the "Missouri Tornado" because you will seldom ever meet anyone who is so driven, passionate and committed.
Three years ago Pat's daughter was mobilized to deploy to Iraq. Pat was not satisfied with the services that were being provided to the Veterans, so she decided to do something about it. She quit her job and without a mandate, staff, or budget she set out to fix things. Her accomplishments captured the attention of the Missouri State Veterans Commission who promptly appointed her as their first Veterans Ombudsman. She's the first of her kind in the United States although several states have recognized the importance of her work and are setting up Veterans Ombudsman Offices of their own.
Louise and I were at a full trot trying to keep up with the Missouri Tornado and her "right-hand-person" Melissa Wilding. Pat blazes a trail on behalf of the Veterans like the Tasmanian Devil while Melissa follows up with the details and logistics. They have had a huge impact on their Veteran Community, establishing a mandate for themselves that I might equate to the Office of the Veterans Ombudsman, the Legion and ANAVETS combined! We learned a lot!
I am very excited to welcome three more key members of our staff. Our Director General Operations, Jon Holland, comes to us from the RCMP Public Complaints Commission. He is everything I am not but really should have been - a hugely talented administrator who can navigate our way through the back corridors of government. One of his claims to fame is having cleared up a backlog of complaints with the Commission, so he is especially welcomed to the team!
Our Director of Investigations, retired Chief Warrant Officer Guy Parent, comes to us with a wealth of experience from the Department of National Defence/Canadian Forces Ombudsman. His investigation background is going to be instrumental in establishing our approach to operations.
Finally our Director of Client Services, Michel Guay, has spent the last three years with the Canadian Forces Liaison Office to Veterans Affairs Canada in Charlottetown. As an outside observer to Veterans Affairs Canada, he has come to know the way they operate better than they know themselves. His leadership and experience are going to enable our Early Resolution Officers to hit the ground running, sorting out any issues that can be resolved in a timely manner and setting the conditions for our Investigators to slay the more complex ones.
Our next step is the crucial one, hiring our front line foot soldiers who are going to go into battle on your behalf - our Early Resolution and Case Officers!
Again, take care everyone!
Date Modified: 2009-06-17