Q&A with Diahann Potrebenko, Mayor of Rycroft

Diahann Potrebenko was born at the Spirit River hospital and grew up just north of Woking. Her family did a lot of traveling in the United States and BC until she was about 5 years old, while her father built railway tracks. They finally settled down in 1979 at their family farm where her father still resides. She attended Grade K to Grade 6 in Rycroft, Grade 7 to Grade 8 in Woking and finished off at the Central Peace High School – now known as Spirit River Regional Academy.

Diahann took time out of her busy schedule to let us get to know her a bit better.

Q: How long have you been in Rycroft Council and what made you decide to run for office? What have you hoped to achieve while in Council?
A: I was elected for my first term in October 2017. I wanted to make a difference and be a part of something much bigger. I knew that it was going to be hard work as it was at the tail end of the Viability Review, but I was up for the challenge. I am so proud to be a part of this Council and together with Administration we are an amazing team. I can say for our first achievement is remaining a Village. We know we still have a lot of work ahead of us, but feel we are ready and prepared for what is to come.

What career path have you taken, aside from being in Council?
As I started out in my young adult life, I always knew I wanted to make a difference and help people. I wanted to follow my dreams and become a lawyer, but when I moved to Calgary in 1994, I started my education in the medical field and trained to become a Physician Assistant. I graduated in 1997, moved to Chetwynd, BC, and decided to continue with my education and obtained my EMR licence. I worked for BC Ambulance as well as started my own first aid and safety service company from 1999 to 2005. I continued to pursue my paramedical career and was working towards my EMT licence when that changed in 2003. I was involved in a snowmobile accident in Tumbler Ridge and broke my back, which ended my paramedic career. I had already started to evolve in the safety side of my business in the forestry and oil and gas industry, so in 2007 I started full-time as a Health and Safety Advisor for a construction company. In 2015, I moved back to the Peace Country where I am currently employed with Saddle Hills County as Health and Safety Coordinator.

What aspects of your career do you enjoy most?
Every day is different. You can never become stagnant in this profession. I enjoy educating others and trying to make our workplaces a safer and a better place to be.

What extracurricular activities are you involved with?
I am a volunteer firefighter for the Central Peace Fire and Rescue Commission. I joined over a year ago. I have to say I am honoured to wear the uniform. We are more than friends, we are family. I also am on various committees for the Village of Rycroft.

What is your greatest accomplishment in life and why?
Although I could not have done it alone, my son Alex. He reminds me everyday to live life to the fullest, and I am always being reminded to take moments to enjoy the small things. One does not truly know unconditional love until you look at your child and just feel your heart burst with happiness. Yes, even on those days when you are pulling your hair out, screaming Why!!?? But, then, you look at those sparkly eyes and those cute little dimples with that handsome smile and then say, yes, that’s why.

What have been some of your defining moments?
Before my accident in 2003, I lived life fast and never had a chance to get to know myself. I worked 16-18 hour days and never just stopped for me. That day, as I was laying in the snow for four hours wondering if I would make it off the mountain, I looked over at the snow-covered hills and took in the beauty. I realized there was more to life than just going hard. I knew, at that moment, that everything was going to be okay, and I had so much more to offer. From that day on, I think about how crazy life can get, but we always have to make time for ourselves and, at the end of each day, reflect on where we have been, what we have accomplished (even if it is a small accomplishment for that day) and be proud of ourselves.

How do you like to spend your free time?
I love spending time with my son, playing. It’s the only time that it’s okay for a 44-year-old woman to play legos and hot wheels crash up derbies without being judged. I also bought a horse this year and plan on spending more time with my friends enjoying the backcountry and camping.

What else do you hope to achieve in your lifetime?
There is just too much to list. I am very interested in pursuing a career with provincial politics. But, right now, my focus is on the Village of Rycroft and what can we do to make this Village a wonderful place to raise our children, families and call our home.

What’s one thing you’d like people to know about you?
I am an open book. No topic is off limits and you will always get an honest answer, even if it’s not what you want to hear. I will be the first to point out my own flaws, and embrace them. I encourage constructive criticism. I cannot grow and be the best that I can be without it.