Haliburton's Mary Hillaby is proud to be the first woman elected as the Haliburton Curling Club's president since it started in 1941. She was voted in unanimously at the club's meeting on Sunday Oct.18./DARREN LUM Staff

Haliburton Curling Club elects first woman president

By Darren Lum

Changes are coming for the Haliburton Curling Club and part of it is electing the first woman president Mary Hillaby.

Hillaby the club’s secretary for four years was unanimously elected by the 41 members in attendance at the club’s general meeting in Haliburton on Sunday Oct. 18.

The retired Grade 8 teacher from the suburbs north of Toronto was “honoured and humbled” to be the not-for-profit organization’s president of 253 members.

“This is history in the making. There hasn’t been female president since the club started in [1941]” she said. “I’m happy with everyone’s vote of confidence. I’m pretty excited about it. I’ve got a great board of directors. A great team of people working with me. It makes my job easier.”

She acknowledges the presidency comes with a lot of support.

The knowledge it is a full time year-round job particularly with ongoing fiscal challenges related to hydro costs hasn’t deterred her or dampened her enthuiasm.

“Lucky I’m retired. Let’s just say that” she said. “You’re on your toes all the time.”

The club member and Haliburton resident since 2011 loves the club that has been like a second family to her. It welcomed her when she was new to the community.

“I was greeted with happy faces and just wonderful friendships. I made a lot of my friends here” she said. “It is important to me. This club is very friendly."

She wants to ensure the club remains vibrant and relevant to the community and its residents.
Fifty new members signed up at registration.

“I want the club to do well under my leadership and that we [remain a connected] part of the Haliburton community” she said.

Hillaby believes in the people around her at the club and that communication can resolve issues.

“They’re a very supportive group. I know I’m coming in with that in mind” she said. “You’re going to tackle problems but you meet them head on and talk it out. Not everybody is going to agree with what you do or what you say. That would be too easy wouldn’t it?”

Club vice-president Kent Milford who has worked with Hillaby in improving the club’s website this past year said Hillaby is the ideal leader to ensure a vital future for the club.

The enhanced website offers members access to standings for all of the leagues and it also provides teams an opportunity find the extra curler to complete a team. The club held a clinic to learn how to navigate the site.

In order to draw newer members the club recently offered several curling clinics for the beginner and those returning to the sport who want a refresher. For the first time there is was the new member $99 membership offering the curler inclusion in one league a session of eight weeks.

This addresses the need for flexibility and a chance for new curlers to sample the club and curling as they recognized seniors who like to travel want the freedom to leave for months at a time.

There are three sessions in the year. An experiment this year for the club is to extend the season to the month of April.  Hillaby said Haliburton is the only club in the “north” doing this.

Fridays the club used to have its corporate teams night. It has since been changed to the social night to draw younger curlers who want to play on Friday nights.

Hillaby said past-president Rick Ashall has been a supporter of hers and has made himself available to her for advice.

Although Ashall agreed he emphasized it’s the entire board of directors with a lot of leadership experience who will be the backbone of support for its new president.

He believes her personality is perfect for leading the club.

“She’s very organized and outgoing and inclusive in terms of the club. Her enthusiasm is contagious and I think she’ll do an excellent job” he said.

With rising hydro costs mainly related to lighting and ice making the overall cost to keep the club going is a challenge.

“We’re trying to address … hydro costs which are basically our No. 1 expense. Our future direction is dependent so I’ve made a commitment that I’ll continue to focus on hydro under Mary’s leadership and so we’re hopeful that we can identify some opportunities we can get some grant money to support it” he said.

Along with the ice making equipment lighting at the building draw the most amount of power.

There’s a hope the grant money can upgrade the ice making equipment. Part of this effort includes an energy audit.

She looks up to Ashall and hopes to be as good a leader as he has been for the past four years.

“He has set the bar pretty high. He’s an amazing leader. He’s always put the interests of the club first and that’s exactly what I do too” she said. “The club comes first.”