The Caped Cearnsader's Everyday Heroes...A day in the life of Scugog Bylaw Officer Denise Stephenson
DAN CEARNS The Standard
SCUGOG: Ever since her high school days, Denise Stephenson has wanted to be involved in law enforcement. So, she is happy she is currently employed as a Township of Scugog Municipal Law Enforcement Officer.
“I love it. I get to meet all kinds of people. 99 per cent of the time, the experiences are fantastic,” she told The Standard. “Contrary to what people think, enforcement is about helping people. While the law is black and white, the grey comes in how you work to help people, how you get people to the point you need them to be in.”
She also spoke about what it takes to be a bylaw officer.
“In order to do this type of job, you have to like people, which sounds a little counter-intuitive, because a lot of times when we are going out to see people, similar to the police, is when they need you. We are out in the community, trying to help people with issues and trying to educate people on what they can and can’t do,” she said. “The first step would be college, Durham [College] has a great police foundations course, and a lot of the colleges do across Ontario, and that’s a great start. And then just being ready to take whatever you can get, you need to get your foot in the door. Most people start in bylaw enforcement, by working in larger communities in parking enforcement. Here in Scugog, the department are generalists, we enforce all bylaws, but in larger communities like Toronto they are specialists.”
She also said there are courses aspiring bylaw officers need to take from the Municipal Law Enforcement Association and the Ontario Association of Property Standards Officers.
She also noted that it helps to stay in relatively good shape.
“There’s absolutely a physical component to it. You are out there, and you are walking in 40 degree weather in your vest and all your gear, and you could have to be picking things up, cleaning up an area, slogging through snow. You definitely need to be in shape to do the job.”
Every day is different for a municipal law enforcement officer.
“One thing that I like about bylaw is there is no such thing as typical. Every day changes. We’ll come in for the day, check voicemail, check email. Most of our complaints come in through email. We’ll make a listing of anything new that’s come in, do any necessary administrative work behind the scenes, before we attend a property, and then we’ll make our list of inspections,” Ms. Stephenson explained. “The day can be anything from new inspections for new concerns that come in, [and/or] following up on old inspections to see where a particular property is at correcting a situation and getting a property back into compliance. Then [she comes] back [to the Township office] to do updates and notes, and while we are here we also respond to any walk in questions and concerns.”
She added “being respectful and understanding of people’s situations” will help people have success at the job.
“There’s the odd time you will get someone yelling a not so nice comment, but probably for every one of those, there’s two or three people going ‘thank you for doing this’.”
Ms. Stephenson thinks the toughest part of her job is having to work in all types of environments.
“It gets really tough when you have to be out in -20 or -30 [degree weather] writing parking tickets, or doing a patrol in the middle of the summer wearing full gear and a heavy vest when it’s 30, 35 degrees out, that to me is the toughest part of the job.”
She also sees education as the most important part of her job.
“[Bylaws are] really not simple to the average person, who is not looking at the legal side of it every day,” Ms. Stephenson explained. “Always, the first step is education. Helping people to understand what the regulations are, and why they are in place, and then working with them to find a solution, and creating a timeframe to have it rectified.”
She stressed the importance of Scugog’s winter parking restrictions, that are now in place, which don’t allow drivers to park on Scugog roads and on the shoulder between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m.
“That doesn’t seem like a big thing to a lot of people, but when snow removal is required, and no one can get down a street because the plows couldn’t get around the cars, that’s important,” Ms. Stephenson said. “A lot of what we hear is ‘but it’s not snowing.’ My answer is, by the time it’s snowing, it’s too late. The vehicles need to be gone, need to be off the road so that when it snows, the plows can safely maneuver and clean. It’s really a safety issue.”
The Standard was given an opportunity to experience a parking enforcement sweep with Ms. Stephenson. While there wasn’t any non-compliant vehicles found during that time, she said it depends on the time of day how many vehicles they find parked illegally.
“The school areas are a difficult zone, more so at the beginning of the day and the end of the day, pickup and drop off [times],” she said. “After school there is a lot [of violations] around some of the schools. We spend a lot of time just trying to get traffic to move on.”
She also said some people don’t exactly understand the definition of parking.
“What people don’t understand is parking doesn’t mean pulling up, turning off and getting out of your vehicle. Just the act of pulling up, stopping and sitting there constitutes as parking, even if you are in the vehicle and the vehicle is running.”
From just browsing Toronto Maple Leafs related tweets on Twitter the last few weeks, and from personally hearing some fans talk, it seems Toronto’s backup goalie Garret Sparks has faced a lot of unwarranted criticism from fans of the team that wears blue and white.
It seems the decision to make Sparks the backup goaltender and to put Curtis McElhinney and Calvin Pickard on waivers was an unpopular one in Leafs' nation, but I think Leafs fans are missing the bigger picture here, and are deciding to ignore the sound logic this decision was based on in favour of nostalgia.
Personally, I think Sparks is simply facing this criticism because he is not Curtis McElhinney, a goalie who was so popular with the team and with fans the last two seasons, and that’s unfair.
McElhinney’s positive attitude endeared him to Leafs fans. He also had a decent record as the team’s backup, which helped, as he won six out of the 14 games he played, in his first season with the Leafs, and followed that up with an 11-5-1 record with the team the following season. But, as I noted in my annual predictions column, Sparks is 10 years younger than McElhinney.
The Leafs had to make a decision, and were faced with the possibility of losing at least one goalie on waivers no matter what, so they had to go with the younger asset to protect. For those who are unaware, the Leafs lost both Pickard and McElhinney on waivers to the Flyers and Hurricanes.
Unfortunately, because McElhinney was claimed and Sparks won the job, a lot of ire was directed at Sparks unfairly.
Sparks had a great season in the AHL last year, eventually leading the Marlies to a Calder Cup victory. He posted a 1.79 goals-against average and .936 save percentage, and had six shutouts in 43 regular season games. Ok, so some people will point out the AHL is a whole different league than the NHL. Ok, so let’s let his stats this year do the talking. He has won four of the first five games he has played as the Leafs’ backup, and has a .924 save percentage. Not to mention, he is coming off a shutout performance against the Philadelphia Flyers.
The AHL is a league specifically for development, getting players ready to play in the NHL. Leafs fans, who I might add were embracing the rebuild that brought the team Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews and William Nylander among others, should have known someday Toronto would promote their young goalie, and that day just happened to take place this season.
Let’s also look at his inexperience through a positive lens, as he played in the NHL only previously in the 2015/2016 season. If he has won four of five with a record like that, as a goalie still learning the ropes in the NHL, his numbers should improve as he gets more experience, and his best is still yet to come. If you give Sparks a chance, as he works to get better every game, he could very well impress you.
Leaf fans, I think we should be embracing Sparks as our present and future backup goaltender.
Like many people, I like to listen to music whenever I get a chance to.
As a reporter who often travels to certain places in North Durham and the Kawartha Lakes for photo opportunities and interviews, I like to either listen to the radio, or CDs I brought with me, while I drive to my destination. I also often play music to motivate me while doing chores at my home, and I listen to music while I relax as well. I’ve found that the right song has a way of setting the tone for a particular moment, and it is fascinating to listen to the vast array of interesting lyrics. So, in today’s column, I’d like to share some of my favourite song lyric quotes, and why I like those specific quotes.
The first one is from a Kelly Clarkson song titled ‘I Had a Dream.’
The quote is “I had a dream that we were more a generation to behold. Lighting fires with our words, instead of useless smoke that blurs the lines of right and wrong.”
First off, let me just say, I like to listen to this song at times to motivate me. These lyrics specifically remind me how a person or people can create a legacy for themselves by standing up for what they feel is right, and how their words and the actions they take will end up defining how people remember them after they die.
I’ve written in the past about how I hope to leave a legacy, that will last, of both informing the public and possibly making a change in people’s lives through my news stories and columns, so these song lyrics fit well with that interest.
Similar to a song about a generation of people coming together is a Nickelback song about people as human beings coming together. The song is titled ‘If Everyone Cared’, and the lyrics I like are once again in the chorus of the song.
The quote is “If everyone cared and nobody cried, if everyone loved and nobody lied, if everyone shared and swallowed their pride, then we'd see the day when nobody died.”
While I think it is a bit of a naïve thought knowing history, these lyrics do remind me that if people decided to not focus on hatred of other people and instead about caring about the well being of everyone, the world would be a much better place, without things like greed inspired decisions and murder.
While I know this utopian society thought will likely never happen worldwide, I do take solace in knowing there are a lot of caring people locally in the communities I cover and in Canada as a whole.
Now, with Stompin’ Tom Connors’ ‘The Hockey Song’ having recently been inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, and since I am a longtime hockey fan, I would be remiss if I didn’t include a quote from this legendary song in this list.
Probably my favourite quote from this song is “Where players dash, with skates aflash, the home team trails behind. But they grab the puck, and go bursting up, and they're down across the line. They storm the crease, like bumble bees, they travel like a burning flame. We see them slide, the puck inside, it's a 1-1 hockey game.”
I like these lines simply because there’s lots of imagery in them, that perfectly encapsulates what the battle to tie a competitive hockey game can be like.
I could list several more, but with the constraints of this column, I will conclude this list with a quote from a song titled ‘The Champion’ by Carrie Underwood.
The quote is “I am invincible, unbreakable, unstoppable, unshakeable. They knock me down, I get up again. I am the champion.”
These lyrics remind me of what it takes for a person to be the best at whatever they are doing, which is the right confident attitude, perseverance and hard work.
Hope you enjoyed reading this list and/or found any of these song quotes inspiring or thought provoking.
Well fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs, it has been a fun start to the season, with the team having won eight of their first 11 games.
There are two Leafs players who I’m happy have finally been given the opportunities they deserve this season. They are Kasperi Kapanen and Frederik Gauthier.
Let’s start with Kapanen. He has thrived on one of the top offensive units, Auston Matthews’ usual unit, as he already has six goals and 10 points. As most Leafs fans likely already know, Kapanen is in the spot usually occupied, in the past, by William Nylander, because Nylander has not yet, as of press time, signed a new contract with the Leafs.
Before this season, Kapanen was mostly used on the fourth line, playing along side guys with less skill and more grit, such as Matt Martin. While he excelled in the defensive aspects on that line, there is no denying he has the tools of a scorer. Kapanen has great foot speed, and can create goal scoring opportunities where there don’t appear to be any. A great example of this was in Game 7 of last year’s first round playoff series between the Leafs and Boston Bruins where he rushed onto a misplayed puck, got past the Bruins’ defender, and deked out the Bruins goaltender to score a goal, giving the Leafs a 4-3 lead.
As he was one of the more exciting players to come out of the trade that sent Phil Kessel to Pittsburgh, it’s great to see him finally put in a position to use his offensive skills.
I’m also happy to see Frederik Gauthier as a mainstay on the team’s fourth line.
Gauthier was drafted by the Leafs in the first round of the 2013 NHL draft. Of, course as any first round pick will know, there are tremendous expectations put on a player chosen that high, and Gauthier has struggled the last few years to make himself a permanent member of an NHL team. Coming into this season, the highest number of games he had played in the NHL in a single season was 21 in the 2016/2017 season.
Despite the idea he will likely never live up to the expectation of being a high calibre player, as he only has recorded five points in the 45 games he’s played in the NHL, he does have the tools to be a fourth line centre. He has the size, he’s listed as six foot five inches tall and around 235 pounds. Gauthier is also Plus 2 in the plus/minus stat, meaning he’s been on the ice for more goals for than goals against. He’s also only 23 years-old, so he still has a lot of hockey left in him.
Hopefully when, or if, Nylander returns this season, head coach Mike Babcock will find a way to keep Kapanen in an offensive role. As well, hopefully Gauthier will be able to stick as a regular in the lineup for the rest of the season.
Is a reporter for The Standard Newspaper, so if you see him, feel free to say hello. You can follow Dan on Twitter at @dancearnsy