Tom Walters says he’ll miss interacting with clients and seeing the city’s youngest and most vulnerable find their path in life.
But it’s time to step aside and let someone else take the reins, says the outgoing director of Children’s Centre Thunder Bay, who plans to retire after 25 years in the position as 2013 comes to a close.
It was a heart-wrenching decision, he said on Wednesday.
“It was really hard. I do it with very mixed feelings. I have a huge amount of respect for my staff and the managers and the board of directors. We’ve done some really, really wonderful things over the years,” Walters said.
“I’m both excited and scared at the same time.”
Walters, who worked for the province of Manitoba in the mental-health field prior to arriving in Thunder Bay in 1988, said broadening the range of services CCTB offers over the past quarter of a century is likely his biggest accomplishment.
Not only has the quality of service improved, but the organization is also able to meet the needs of a lot more people in 2013.
“We’ve adapted and changed our services. We’ve really made an effort to be more accessible to people. We’ve formed great partnerships with other organizations that work with kids. And I think we’ve just improved overall the quality of service we give to the community and to the children and families,” he said.
He’s noticed big changes since the Mulroney era, when he first took charge.
The interest in children’s mental health has grown rapidly in Ontario. His biggest regret is he won’t get to see a promised children’s mental health transformation agenda put into place by the province. With a change in leadership earlier this year, the process has been stalled, meaning it likely won’t happen until after Walters retires.
“I believe there is still a commitment to work on it and get it done. I would like to have seen that done before I retire, but I think after some reflection I realized it was going to take longer than I wanted to stay,” he said.
His advice for his replacement is to believe in what they’re doing, form strong partnerships and hire great people to surround themselves with.
“Then get out of their way and support the hell out of them,” he said.
Walters, a father of four, plans to travel in retirement and spend more time working on a passionate hobby, building musical instruments. He’d like to craft a handmade acoustic guitar for each of his children, one for a neighbour, and lastly, one for himself.
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