At just 27 years old, Robyn Paches has mastered the art of reinvention.
Raised in Athabasca, Paches’s adolescence was defined by a two-year stint as an all- purpose employee at the local Sears store, which doubled as a U-Haul dealer, dry cleaner and locksmith. Ever the multitasker, he also found time to moonlight as a volunteer firefighter alongside his father and younger brother.
Paches went on to wear even more hats after graduating high school, including serving as vice-president operations and finance for the University of Alberta Students’ Union. After growing up in a town of 3,000 people, he was suddenly overseeing an $18 million budget and a constituency 32,000 students strong.
“I describe [my time as a vice-president] as work and political experience on steroids,” he says.
Paches’s time at the Students’ Union also laid the groundwork for a different kind of reinvention, this time as president of the Oliver Community League, a historic downtown community wrestling with its own identity after calls from Indigenous activists to divest from the racist legacy of its namesake, Frank Oliver
And although he emphasizes his role as a facilitator when it comes to the renaming process, Paches isn’t nervous about tackling yet another reinvention, albeit one with much deeper roots.
“There’s been some critical discussion about how do we get there? How do we engage people? What is the process we’re going to do it with? But it’s never been a question of, Is this the right path? That’s always been unanimous.”