It’s all about people

Cecilia Mutch’s career, though varied – geographically and sector-wise, has always been primarily about people. The new Executive Director of The United Way of Fort McMurray, Cecilia assumed the reins following the retirement of Diane Shannon at the beginning of December. She previously spent almost a decade at the Long Lake Project as Director of Human Resources, and before that, many years in a similar role with a health authority in the Maritimes.

She was born and raised in the Miramichi district of New Brunswick. Her dad spent his working life with Irving Oil, retiring at about the age of 70.

“He was my hero,” she shared during an interview on the weekly KAOS 91.1 radio show called IMPACT.

Cecilia on Impact

Cecilia was our special guest on the December 13th edition of IMPACT which you can listen to by clicking here

“He always said to carry ourselves the way you wanted to be treated. He taught me that I could do anything I wanted to do, and be anything I wanted to be.”
Her mom was a homemaker, and a devoted community volunteer. She cared for the sick, looked after seniors and went out of her way to help the disadvantaged.

On her recent career move to the social profit sector Cecilia said that “I think Mom would be very proud.”

While she continued her human resources work with the Miramichi Regional Health Authority, her husband Doug was commuting back and forth to Fort McMurray, spending three weeks in and one week back in New Brunswick. While she was hopeful that she could see her husband on a more frequent basis, he was adamant about the potential of considering Fort McMurray as home.

“He said I love it out there,” she recalled. “You have no idea what it’s like in Fort McMurray. The atmosphere is so different.”

She came out for visit and began to see what her husband was talking about. The job opportunity at Long Lake sealed the deal.

“I went from a thousand person organization that was primarily female, unionized and sterile to one that was primarily male, non-unionized and anything but sterile.”

She loved working at the Long Lake Project and its three successive owners: Opti Canada, Nexen and Nexen CNOOC.

“It was big enough to do things, but small enough that you could have an impact and make decisions.”

The Long Lake leadership team worked together with Cecilia to achieve a goal of being an employer of choice in the region. Their turnover rate plummeted from over 18-percent to around 6-percent.

Cecilia started with United Way in November and was able to spend a couple of crossover weeks with outgoing ED Diane Shannon. Her learning curve has been steep.

“Diane had done so much for this community for so many years,” she said. “There is no way I could possibly absorb as much as she had to give.”

She has been very impressed by the people committed to helping the community through the community investment program and the fire recovery fund.

“There is an amazing amount of people involved in making sure that the funds we received from the generous donations actually go to what we need in the community for the long-term. To me, the most important thing in this whole process is to make sure that the people in need in this community get what they need.”

In addition to spending one-on-one time with the staff, Cecilia has been very involved in meetings with agencies as they go through the regular funding cycle. She is also planning to physically visit each agency, seeing their facilities, meeting their staff and clients and taking her learning to a deeper level.

She feels that coming from other sectors put her in a good position to offer a fresh perspective, and most importantly, ask lots of questions.

“What do you want of me? What do you want me to help you with? What can we as United Way help you with? What do we do that maybe you’d like us not to do anymore? I think they’ll be open, because I’m a new face, to actually giving me that feedback so we can be a better agency.”

The calendar has turned and we’re already into the second week of 2017. Many meetings and questions later, Cecilia is well on her way to making sure that people in the community get what they need, and that the work of United Way continues to make an impact.


Author: Russell Thomas

​Russell is a marketing and communications professional who has spent 20 years in Wood Buffalo working with the OK Radio Group, Keyano College, Arts Council Wood Buffalo, and now with The United Way of Fort McMurray. A regular blogger, Russell's writing can be seen online ( and in multiple publications. His paintings can be seen in homes and businesses throughout the community. Married to Heather and "Papa" to Dylan and Ben, Russell is a passionate spokesperson for United Way.