From the moment she finished her training to become an RCMP officer, outgoing local Staff Sergeant Kirsten Marshall had always wanted to work in Smithers.
As a newly minted officer applying for her first posting, she put Smithers as her first choice.
She said she had been charmed by the Bulkley Valley during previous visits.
“I just have always loved the look of the community,” Marshall said.
“The few times I visited I found it very welcoming and friendly, and having a family it really sort of spoke to that side of me, as a great family community.”
Although her first posting was not to Smithers, Marshall finally made it here in 2009.
The staff sergeant was last week getting ready to relocate to Penticton, where she has taken a new job to be closer to family.
As she prepared to handover to Corporal Dean Klubi, who will be acting in her role until a replacement is found, Marshall reflected on the highlights of her time in Smithers, and the circumstances that brought her here.
The daughter of an RCMP officer herself, Marshall grew up living and travelling throughout northern B.C., Alberta and the Yukon.
Later, when she graduated from the RCMP program at the organization’s training facility at Regina, she was hopeful for a posting somewhere in “the North.”
Although she wasn’t granted her first choice of Smithers, Marshall did get an opportunity to work in a northern community when she was posted to the small industrial town of Chetwynd.
As a young officer working primarily alone in a remote industrial town, she said the learning curve was steep.
“We spent five-and- a-half years there and a lot of on-call time working on my own and just learning how to do my job,” she said.
“It’s what I wanted, I wanted to work in a northern community because a lot of my growing up had been done in northern communities so it was no surprise, it’s what I knew.”
In stark contrast to her time working solo in Chetwynd, her next posting was to the big, busy station at Williams Lake.
There she worked the first year as a constable and a supervisor before being assigned to the Serious Crimes Unit.
Her case load in that role included drug crimes, homicides and serious sex offences.
She said she had enjoyed the problem-solving aspects of her work in Williams Lake.
“I really liked the complexity of some of those larger scale investigations and I like [being] logical, rational, putting pieces together,” Marshall said.
“Doing those types of investigations also gave me an opportunity to really explore all the resources that are out there to use.
“Once you start having more complex investigations you really start thinking outside the box.”
After more than five years in Williams Lake, a promotion took Marshall to Kitimat, where she spent one year before being promoted again to a role in Smithers.
She was employed as a sergeant then promoted to the detachment’s most senior role of staff sergeant when her predecessor, Sheila White, left the detachment in 2012.
Six years later, Marshall said the community had lived up to her high expectations.
“We came to Smithers looking to really connect with the community and we did,” she said.
“We moved here and our neighbourhood was amazing, we had people approaching us immediately and engaging.
“It was just a very, very welcoming community and that’s exactly what we’d hoped so our time here has been incredible.”
Marshall said Smithers had been her favourite posting.
Most of her highlights related to the RCMP’s close relationship with the community and its involvement in local events like Remembrance Day and Santa’s Breakfast.
She said a tight-knit team and close partnerships with the RCMP’s partner agencies had made the experience even more valuable.
One personal highlight that came about through her work in Smithers was being one of only 10 RCMP officers chosen to attend a leadership conference in South Africa.
“There were about 1,500 police officers there from around the world and we were all in Durban, South Africa,” she said.
“I would say that was really a highlight for me. Even though it wasn’t physically in town, it was as a result of being here and being allowed to stretch my wings as a leader.
“That was really cool … to march with all these other police officers around the world and just to be given that opportunity and to represent Canada, that was amazing.”
Marshall’s new role as staff sergeant, rural operations in Penticton will be shared with another officer, working under a superintendent in an integrated detachment.
Although she said it would be hard to say goodbye to Smithers, she was excited about developing in her new role overseeing Penticton’s outlying communities.
“I think it will be an interesting change and some things maybe I’ve never dealt with before,” she said.
“Osoyoos is close to the border so from my perspective, being able to develop that part of me, that I don’t know a lot about because I’ve never lived in a community that borders another country.
“I guess I’m looking at it as, I would like to bring what I have to the table but I’m also hoping to develop myself as well.”
Marshall’s last day at the Smithers detachment was last Thursday.