The 2018 Lieutenant 2018 Lieutenant Governor's Medal of Distinction in Public Administration Governor's Medal of Distinction in Public Administration, Ontario's highest honour for public service, has been awarded to Dryden native and now-Thunder Bay resident David Cleaveley.
David retired from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) fire program at the end of 2018.
At that time, he was the Response and Operations Manager for the Northwest Region responsible for ensuring the effective delivery of fire management services for the north half of Ontario and for ensuring the safety of firefighters and the residents of Ontario.
David has spent his entire 44-year career with the Government of Ontario's fire program.
He has progressively worked his way from a member of a five-person fire crew, which worked directly on the fire line, to the position of senior manager, responsible for providing leadership and direction to over 800 staff, located in 13 different work locations across the region.
As the Response and Operations Manager one of David's key focuses was to develop partnerships and collaborative agreements with numerous stakeholders throughout the province.
Of note, his leadership and innovation when managing indigenous initiatives are indicative of his achievements working for the fire program and his service to the people of Ontario.
David has been a staunch supporter of many initiatives with indigenous communities within Ontario and his creativity, skill and passion ensured that these initiatives received the resources they required to thrive.
David understood early on in his career the need to collaborate with indigenous communities in the far north and appreciate the unique situation regarding living in this region.
In 2004, David championed the creation of a Fire Protection Agreement between the MNRF and Grassy Narrows First Nation.
This agreement provided a mechanism for the MNRF to engage Grassy Narrows in the suppression of wildfires in their community.
This agreement was the first of its kind in Ontario and led to similar agreements with other First Nations.
David later used his knowledge, experience and leadership to drastically expand indigenous initiatives and entrench a collaborative partnership framework into policies, practices and procedures.
David would actively reach out to indigenous communities and involve them in the decision-making process.
This would ensure that solutions would meet their needs and create local buy-in for the programs being developed.
In this way, David was instrumental in the creation and success of numerous indigenous initiatives programs in Northwestern Ontario.
Some of these programs included: the Indigenous Fire Crew Initiative; Landfill Site Mitigation; Collaborative Hazard Reduction Prescribed Burns; and Community FireSmart Mitigation Projects.
An important element of all these programs was the involvement of community elders in the creation and maintenance of these programs.
Throughout the programs life span, elders in the community provided insight and support on how the program was progressing, the challenges that were emerging and the best way to overcome them.
David was also responsible for the planning and delivery of over $100 million of capital investment to upgrade the aging infrastructure within the region.
Over the last eight years under David's direction, the region has upgraded numerous facilities, providing the resources required to deliver a quality fire management program well into the future.
Since retirement, Dave has continued to meet with indigenous communities to discuss climate change and mitigation strategies that a community can consider to ensure that their communities and residents are safe in the event of a fire.
David has been happily married to Rita for over 40 years and has recently moved to Thunder Bay to be closer to their daughter, Jennifer, and new grandson, Ethan, as well as son, Andrew, and his wife, Kelsey, who are expecting their first child.
The Lieutenant Governor's Medal of Distinction was presented to Cleaveley by the Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, at a ceremony in Toronto on June 25.
Since 1990, the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario has joined with the National Capital Region, South West and Toronto Regional Groups of the Institute of Public Administration of Canada to encourage and recognize excellence in public service in Ontario by awarding the Lieutenant Governor's Medal of Distinction in Public Administration.
Editor's note: Besides being well-known by regional MNRF fire management staff, David Cleaveley is the brother of local resident Laurel Halvorsen.