Showing Leadership in DiverseCity

By Ron Fanfair, Toronto Police Service Published: 6 a.m. October 22, 2015
Updated: 8:15 a.m. October 22, 2015

Sergeant Shari MacKay seizes every opportunity to learn from others.

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Service members Ritesh Kotak and Shari Mackay are among this year's DiverseCity fellows

She is set to expand her capabilities through one of North America’s top programs for rising leaders interested in urban issues and effecting change.

As a 2015-16 DiverseCity Fellowship cohort, MacKay is among 27 emerging leaders poised to take action on issues critical to the health and prosperity of Toronto.

“This is exciting and I am humbled to be part of this group,” she said. “I have a passion for developing leaders, civic engagement, education and creating opportunity for young people. I am also committed to making an impact in improving our community and our country.”

Now in its seventh year, this free year-long DiverseCity program exposes participants to important regional issues, provides opportunities for personal leadership development and helps them develop a strong network of civic-minded peers across sectors.  It also provides access to the region’s top influencers and a unique platform for community-focused action. 

The program comprises four integrated streams of activities – interactive learning sessions, network connections, a mentoring relationship and city-building projects.

Last spring, the 14 Division sergeant was among 230 participants in the six-week Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference.

“It was an extraordinary opportunity to meet, work and learn with emerging leaders from Canada’s business, labour, government and community sectors,” the married mother of two children, who’s completing a Master’s in Public Administration at Queen’s University, pointed out. “During that experience, I fell in love with my country and was motivated and committed to making Canada a better place. I learned the secret to life is that you decide who you are. You can’t sit and wait for opportunities. I also learned that being a leader isn’t enough. We need to build leaders around us which is what I will be doing.”

A Toronto Police Service member since 1998, MacKay co-chairs the organization’s Women’s Internal Support Network and started a leadership book club that’s open to all uniform and civilian Service members. The group meets every eight weeks to discuss concepts and ideas presented in the readings. Members are encouraged to share what they learned, how they were inspired and challenges they have experienced as they relate to the book.

Starting her career at 54 Division in 1999 after securing a law enforcement diploma from Seneca College, MacKay was assigned to Organized Crime Enforcement and 32 & 31 Divisions before she was promoted in 2011 and dispatched to 52 Division.

In March 2013, she was assigned to the Chief’s Internal Organization Review team that examined service delivery models, while looking for opportunities to improve service delivery and efficiencies.

Ritesh Kotak is a TPS isa research & innovation strategist for the Service who spearheaded the TPS Mobile App.

“I am excited to meet and, more importantly, collaborate with like-minded individuals who are committed to solving some of the city’s most complex challenges,” said Kotak, who has a business administration degree from the University of Toronto and was a TPS Parking Enforcement officer prior to taking up his current role. “Technology can often bring innovative new solutions to a problem and I look forward to applying my expertise in this area to city-building projects”

Kotak was the project coordinator for Operation Reboot which addressed social media, open source, technology procurement and cyber threats and investigations.

“I relish keeping the Service ahead of the curve,” Kotak said.

Former Toronto Police Service Black Community Police Consultative Committee vice-chair and treasurer Kwesi Johnson is also in this year’s class.

“Being a DiverseCity Fellow is a huge opportunity for me,” said Johnson, who has a Master’s in sociology and equity studies and is a United Way of Toronto York Regions-sponsored employee. “It gives me a chance to work with individuals with other skill sets and look at the bigger picture issues from a collective standpoint. With my social sector background, I want to learn the languages of those in the private and government sectors so that, when we come to the table to talk, I would have a deeper understanding of how these organizations operate.”

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