Job Title: Senior Investigator at Service Alberta
Why She’s Top 40: For educating the public about consumer issues, creating a more secure marketplace in Alberta.
Guilty Pleasure: “Chocolate or high heel shoes. I love the way a good pair of high heel shoes can make you feel.”
Raised on an acreage in Bruderheim, Alta., where her parents still reside, Julie Matthews is a country girl with a familiar face.
Before last May, her husband and two boys watched Global news each night at dinner to catch their mom’s latest stories as a trouble shooter, which she had been doing since 2004.
“When I took the position, no one told me I didn’t have to respond to every email and phone call,” says Matthews. Receiving 100 emails and calls a day, she led the department on her own, with another staff member clearing the hotline one day a week.
She investigated disturbing patterns that affected buyers and sellers at large. Many different types of consumer frauds and scams crossed her desk, but the two big categories were moving companies and contractors.
“I remember one moving company wouldn’t give $3,000 back to a 92-year-old lady, when they never moved a single box,” says Matthews. She also saw family homes destroyed from pre-paid contractors abandoning jobs midway through – some of the houses even had to be condemned.
She became a consumer-issues warrior by sharing horror stories and helpful tips with the public, stressing the importance of research and reading the fine print.
Occasionally, her newscast made companies come forward. One lady said she loved Matthews for getting her a new dishwasher – one that wouldn’t flood her home.
With a career built on standing up for the little guy, it’s offsetting to hear she was badly bullied throughout school. But she says it made her who she is today. Perhaps that’s why her new career as a senior investigator for Service Alberta is such a good fit.
Now a certified peace officer, she can lay charges and, in some cases, get restitution for consumers who have been wronged. She loves the new position, where she works with a team of 10 investigators.