Former Virden mayor moves to city administration

One of Virden’s staunch supporters, Jeff McConnell, an established lawyer of 26 years and former Virden mayor has moved to Western Canada to take on a new career in the ski resort city of Fernie, B.C.

The move caught many by surprise, but McConnell had been looking for an opportunity to make use of his legal skills plus his 20 years of experience as an elected councillor to work in another area he is passionate about – municipal administration.

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He loved work on town council and it couldn’t help but shape his future. “The citizens of Virden elected me to council after only four years of being there and then allowed me to stay on Council for 20 years. Every step I’ve taken is because I lived in Virden and the opportunities it provided me. I am always going to be grateful for what I’ve been given by the community and by my family.”

McConnell left town on Nov. 18 and started work at Fernie City Hall on Nov. 23. as Director of Corporate Administration Services and Corporate Officer for the City.

A mouthful he admits, “The Corporate Officer position is a legally defined role in the Community Charter of BC. The director role is a management position for the City. The way I like to think of it is as the ‘keeper of the governance’.”

While there’s plenty to attract to the mountain town of Fernie, a small city about twice the size of Virden, he says it was the job opening and his desire to work within municipal government that drew him to leave the comforts of Virden.

Initially a Winnipegger, McConnell came west to Virden as a brand-new lawyer in 1994. He was hired after a rather providential interview with Virden lawyer Ross Poole.

Poole’s history as a school teacher in Hamiota before turning to law seemed unique, but Paul Jensen, a Crown Attorney who mentored McConnell in his first year, also shared the same unusual history. Knowing of Poole’s teacher background Jensen suggested McConnell apply to the Virden firm.

McConnell is a well-known name in nearby Hamiota, where the Virden firm has a once-a week presence. As it turns out, while he may not be related to all the McConnells in the area, his grandparents, Mervyn and Libby McConnell were farmers north of Lavinia at one time.

With threads of association, an interviewed turned into a long career as lawyer in Virden and 25 years serving Hamiota clients as well.

Now, he has has officially retired from the Virden firm that bore his name - McNeill Harasymchuk McConnell.

“I am always going to be grateful for what I’ve been given by the community and my family.” – Jeff McConnell

Reflecting on his years at Virden McConnell says, “I was in my late 20s when we arrived in Virden – a freshly called lawyer. Since then, I’ve felt supported and encouraged in all my efforts. My colleagues at work, Rene, Ross and Glen, and all of our staff over the years provided me the opportunity to do well, and gave me the freedom to be on council and spend time there.”

The lawyer and councillor did not take himself so seriously that he couldn’t ham it up. Involved in community theatre, McConnell often played on Virden’s Aud Theatre stage with the Phoenix Players where he was convincing in roles that were usually comic in nature.

Jeff and wife Margie raised their girls in Virden and with family still living in Virden McConnell says “Virden will always be home.”

© Virden Empire-Advance