Ste Agathe’s Robert among Manitoba 150

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This article was published 03/03/2021 (526 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Jeannot Robert has been driving development in Ste Agathe for decades, most notably as a founding member and former president of the Ste Agathe CDI (Community Development Inc.).

Last week, the Manitoba 150 host committee awarded him an Honour 150 medal for that work and many other successful efforts to grow Ste Agathe.

“It’s very touching. I was surprised in a way. It’s been good to have been recognized,” Robert said.

Jordan Ross Jeannot Robert has spent more than 45 years serving the community of Ste Agathe.

Raised seven miles south of Ste Agathe, Robert attended school in the community, where his parents purchased a second property.

“I got to be very proud of the village and the people and the friends we had. I found it such a nice community with the river there,” he said. “I decided then that I wanted to partake in the community and help build it up.”

In 1975, he moved his young family to Ste Agathe and purchased the Ste Agathe Service Centre.

“It was not much of a business. Just an old, dilapidated building which I had to rebuild from the ground up.”

In those days, people often worried about small towns dying.

“I always said that you either grow or you go down; you can’t stay still.”

Robert joined a local economic council. Other committee posts followed. In 1984, he was part of the group that established the Ste Agathe CDI, which incorporated a decade later.

“A group of us wanted to grow the town and bring in some services,” he explained.

They drafted a Vision 2000 planning document and held town hall meetings.

“We wanted to involve all the people of Ste Agathe,” Robert explained.

Main Street revitalizations and park improvements followed.

“Everything was going great, and then of course the flood of ’97 came along,” Robert said.

He was tapped to coordinate the sandbagging and cleanup effort. When the flood waters subsided, he was one of several residents appointed to a provincial board guiding the construction of a new dike around Ste Agathe.

“I’m sure happy that we were involved in the design of that dike, otherwise Ste Agathe wouldn’t be what it is today,” he said.

Provincial officials wanted to build the dike between Highway 75 and the town, leaving no room to build houses. Robert said that wouldn’t do.

“They were locking us up behind that dike,” he said.

Next they proposed including the highway in the dike. Robert pointed out the flaw with that plan, too.

“The farmland between Highway 75 and the tracks, they were cutting that land in half,” he said.

The province eventually agreed to build the dike near the railroad tracks, freeing up land that today is home to residential developments and an industrial park.

Robert himself helped develop two 80-lot residential subdivisions on the north and south ends of town. He also served as the town’s waterworks manager and volunteered on the minor hockey board and parish finance committee.

Today, when Robert goes for a walk, he’s pleased to see houses filled with young families and a growing number of businesses.

“That was our vision. I could see it. Proximity to Winnipeg, a four-lane highway, 30 minutes from the U.S. border, Steinbach to the east. We’re right in the centre of all this. Why would Ste Agathe not grow?”

People with roots in the community, including Robert’s own children, began moving back. The town now boasts one of the lowest median ages in the region.

“You want to grow a town? We have exactly the right people to do it.”

Robert also served his community as an elected official. He was a Red River Valley school trustee during the formation of the DSFM (Division scolaire franco-manitobaine).

He refused three times to run for RM of Ritchot council, but friends insisted, compiling the requisite signatures and driving him to the municipal office. Robert went on to serve two terms on Ritchot council. He retired from municipal politics in 2018.

His Honour 150 medal follows a Volunteer Manitoba Award for community leadership announced last fall.

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