Later this month, Jim Darby will officially assume a new title as director of recreation and community services with the Town of Hay River.
And until April he will have another title – or more accurately rank – as a major in the British Army.
Darby explained that he served in the Royal Army Physical Training Corps.
“So my job was to keep the army fit,” he said. “Great job.”
That role in the British Army brought him to Cochrane, Alta., two years ago where he ran theBritish Army’s Adventurous Training Centre , which featured things like mountain biking, climbing, skiing, white-water rafting and dog sledding.
After that experience in Canada, Darby and his wife, Claire Darby, and their now-grown son decided to apply for permanent residency in Canada.
While waiting for their applications to be approved, they returned to the U.K.
They came back to Canada on Jan. 3 of this year and started to look for work.
Darby, who is originally from Coventry, England, has been in the army for 30 years.
“I’m still in the forces until April. So I’m on gardening leave to look for a position,” he said, explaining ‘gardening leave’ offers time to find a new job.
“The 30 years I’ve had in the army has all been towards recreation and wellness,” said Darby, noting he was a senior director in physical training and recreation.
With that background, he said he was attracted to the position of the recreation director with the Town of Hay River, noting the job was especially appealing with a new recreation centre under construction and the Arctic Winter Games coming next year.
“I’m really interested in all sports,” he said. “So I just thought I could add a bit of value. So I put my name forward for it.”
For his career in the British Army, Darby did a sports science diploma and completed a year’s course in recreational training to be qualified as a physical training instructor.
In his final post with the army, he was responsible for maintaining the fitness of a division of 30,000 troops.
“I was responsible for managing them and managing the physical development of that division,” he said.
However, Darby said the British Army is a big organization and sometimes initiatives and good ideas are difficult to get through because it’s a slow-moving organization.
“It’s one of the reasons I decided to take another career in an area where I think I could influence change and be part of something that’s quite exciting,” he said.
Darby and his wife were in Hay River for four days last week for his final interview, and to see the community, meet with council and experience the culture of the town and the NWT for the first time.
“The last four days have been a bit of a whirlwind really considering we’ve only been in Canada since Jan. 3,” he said on Feb. 4. “I think we just cemented everything.”
The 50-year-old said he is really excited about the opportunity to work in Hay River.
The plan is that he will return in late February.
Judy Goucher, senior administrative officer with the Town of Hay River, said she is very pleased that Darby will be coming to the community.
“We managed to find someone, who along with his wife, really, really enjoy the outdoor experience,” said Goucher. “And he’s got great credentials in terms of recreation management, a long career in the field, and all kinds of training experience.”
She noted Darby is a kayaking instructor, a golfing instructor and a fitness trainer, and has experience in facilities management and has all kinds of sport science training.
“So far he and his wife have had only positive things to say about our community,” Goucher noted. “They were here for a second interview at a great time because they’re able to take part in our winter festival activities and had an opportunity to meet with mayor and council and the staff at the recreational facility. I think it’s going to be a great fit for the Town of Hay River.”