Darlene Swiderski is one of Selkirk’s elected City Councillors and Selkirk’s first elected First Nations woman councillor.
Darlene’s start in community work began when she started working at Safeway in 1974. She enjoyed that the job allowed her to meet and connect with the people in Selkirk. She worked there for 27 years until 2002.
Originally not very politically involved, Darlene saw herself as a soft-spoken and shy person. Only until she joined the local United Food and Commercial Workers union during the Safeway Strike in 1978, did she start to become more outspoken and involved in the community. Her involvement in the union eventually lead her to join community-centred groups such as the Manitoba Federation of Labour, the Selkirk & District Labour Council, and the Canadian Labor Congress Human Rights Aboriginal Group.
In the summer of 1995, the Selkirk & District Labour Council held a meeting. In it, they discussed the upcoming election and having representation on Selkirk’s town council. The council decided that Darlene and Chris Pawley would make great candidates, and so they knocked on doors until both got elected.
Chris and Darlene were dubbed the “new kids on the block,” but with the mentorship of Bud Oliver and Dawn MacFarlane they quickly learned the ropes. Knowing what it’s like to start out on council as the new person, Darlene does her best to help new councillors be at ease as they settle into council chambers. She says after all, “I once was them.”
Darlene got reelected to council in 1998, 2002, and in 2005, she was elected Deputy Mayor. She decided to run for Mayor in 2006, but ended up giving up her seat on council after losing the mayoral election. During her hiatus from council, she became involved in community-driven initiatives, such as becoming the Community Facilitator for Neighbourhoods Alive! and the Executive Director of Selkirk Community Renewal Corporation in 2008.
Darlene rejoined council in 2010 and has been reelected every term since. She is excited to continue to work on brand new projects and developments that the City of Selkirk has undertaken this past year, and hopes to see them completed by the end of her current term. Darlene takes being a part of the community seriously, and encourages those around her to remember “you’re on a team that works together for the good of your community.”