Heidi de Vries ’05 has known she wanted to be a lawyer since she was a young girl. She always loved a good debate and her family encouraged lively discussions and critical thinking around the table.
But de Vries says she was surprised, honoured and humbled when she learned she was this year’s recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award.
“I couldn’t imagine someone would take the time to nominate me,” she says.
De Vries has certainly risen to the task of her calling. After completing a bachelor of arts in English at Redeemer and a juris doctor (JD) at Queen’s University, she was hired as assistant city solicitor at the City of Brantford and has continued to be promoted there over the past 11 years. Most recently, after being promoted to city solicitor and director, legal and real estate services, she became responsible for two merged commissions and now also heads up the People, Legislated Services and Planning commission, consisting of planning and development, legal services, building services, human resources, IT services and clerk’s services.
Under this highly varied portfolio, she has seen immense value in the liberal arts and sciences education she received at Redeemer, which taught her to think critically about a vast array of subject matter and provided her with good judgment and problem solving skills.
“The ability to identify some of the presuppositions that people bring to things and then get to the root of those can actually change the entire course of a discussion or a decision,” de Vries says. During the pandemic, she’s found it useful to check these presuppositions as well, frequently revisiting programs and policies to see if what was known or assumed at one point and time is still true or useful now.
Adaptability is something that de Vries says is incredibly important in her role. Her ability to lead through challenge and change has shown her resilience and feisty spirit.
“I have a reputation for being fearless,” she says. She owes this to her strong and unabashed faith in God. “I don’t approach my work with a view to keeping my job.” In government, there can be a temptation to get caught up in the political environment, she adds. “As Christians we work for God. We serve him in all that we do.”
She is slow to take credit for her professional accomplishments, believing God has had his hand on her life, directing her path and opening doors for her throughout her career.
“Many people have taken a chance on me. I know that those opportunities aren’t afforded to everyone. I don’t think that I was given those opportunities because I’m so much smarter or harder working than everyone around me…but so many doors have been opened for me that I wouldn’t have expected and I fully believe that God has his hand in that. There’s really no other reason.”
As Christians we work for God. We serve him in all that we do.
De Vries is grateful to have worked on a number of important projects for the City and has been happy with the results and outcomes that she’s achieved on behalf of the people of Brantford. She worked on one of the largest real estate transactions in the City’s history contributing to the revitalization of the City’s downtown core. She’s also been working on a project to modernize the City’s development approvals process and acting as the City’s liaison on a matter that involves the intersection of Indigenous rights and interests and mandated development.
“I really feel the tension of the hope we have as Christians, but also the brokenness of the world, particularly when it comes to this work.”
As a female professional, de Vries is proud to have been appointed the first female city solicitor at the City of Brantford. Having become a mother mid-law school, she knows well the pressures and sacrifices that come with trying to balance a family and career.
…so many doors have been opened for me that I wouldn’t have expected and I fully believe that God has his hand in that.
“I think we do each other a disservice when we as professionals pretend we have it all together.” Reflecting on another of her learnings from her time at Redeemer, she added, “We were created to live in community. We are not individuals who are meant to do this on our own. I think somewhere along the way we’ve forgotten that.” When she’s not working, one of her favourite things to do is have good conversations around a campfire. “To be in the company of good people, to talk about ideas and to constantly be sharpened by the community around me.”
While she may not have everything figured out, her faith in God leads to her holding career plans loosely. “When God is finished with me in this position, I will move along to the next place that he needs me to be. And there’s a lot of comfort in that. I am free from having to worry about that because I know that whatever happens in my life is being worked for my good and his glory. God is good and he loves us. It’s pretty simple.”
A reception celebrating de Vries’ accomplishments and contributions to her community will be held on October 1 at 6 p.m. during Redeemer’s 40th anniversary celebrations.