Twenty-five years ago, I moved to Chatham as Principal, St. Clair College, Thames Campus.  I was anxious to meet with Community Leaders to gain insight into their values and images for the future.  Soon I had the opportunity to connect with many fine people in the private, public and not-for-profit sectors.  One of these individuals quickly drew my attention and respect for her enthusiasm, energy and understanding of the broader elements of a successful community.  That person was Karen Kirkwood-Whyte, Executive Director of the United Way of Chatham-Kent!

I learned more about Karen – her strengths, commitments and ability to inspire, when I served as Chair of the United Way Board, and then, a few years later, followed her as the President of the Rotary Club of Chatham-Kent.  Each of us has also served on the Chatham-Kent Community Strategic Planning Committee.

This is what I’ve witnessed and why I heartily endorse Karen’s Election as Ward 6 Councillor:

SHE LISTENS.  She does not just follow a “Karen knows best” model.  Her efforts to transition our United Way from a “fund-raiser” to a “community impact” organization have been hugely successful because of her ability to consult, collaborate, share and, when appropriate, pass on leadership to appropriate organizations.

SHE SEES THE BIG PICTURE.  Karen understands that community economic development will be most effective when it integrates the social, cultural, economic and ecological goals with the actions of individuals/businesses to create inclusive and sustainable economic opportunities.  Her tag line, noONEleftBEHIND is about much more than “feel good” ideas.

SHE IS COMMITTED TO EFFICIENCY AND COST CONTROL.  The overhead and fundraising costs of United Way of Chatham-Kent have been among the lowest of all Canadian charities during Karen’s leadership.  Voters can rest assured that she will remain committed to efficient and effective use of taxpayer funds.

I invite my colleagues, neighbours and fellow citizens to join with me and vote for Karen Kirkwood-Whyte as Ward 6 Councillor for Chatham-Kent.  You’ll be proud of the impact your choice will make on the future of our community.

– Tom McCarthy, MBA

31 July 2018


I have lived in Chatham all my life and practiced law here for over 50 years.  I also had the good fortune to meet and work with Karen Kirkwood-Whyte.

I was on the governing board that hired Karen as its Executive Director in 1983. And I served as Board President of United Way and as its Campaign Chair.  In these voluntary roles, I had the opportunity to work very closely with Karen.  I can state that throughout the years that I was involved, I was very impressed with her ability to manage, with patience and understanding, a very complex and sometimes challenging organization.  She did this because she listened to people – respecting their individual views and input.

Fiscal responsibility is an important element of Municipal Council.  This involves taking tax dollars and spending them to address the rights and needs of its citizens.  In her time with United Way, Karen was responsible for managing over $53 Million in charitable donations.  Through her guiding hand, these funds were invested efficiently, fairly and responsibly – ensuring that administration and fundraising costs were well within the guidelines established by the Canada Revenue Agency.  I know that Karen will, undoubtedly, use that same approach when managing local tax dollars.

A vote for Karen will bring to Chatham-Kent Council an experienced person who has the time and commitment to serve.  Her website “nooneleftbehind.ca” pretty well sums up what Karen is about.

I encourage my friends and colleagues in Ward 6 to vote for Karen in the upcoming Municipal election.

– Robert K. Rankin, QC

16 June 2018


I have had the pleasure of working with Karen for nearly the entire time which she led the United Way.  She has always demonstrated a keen understanding of our community and was subsequently able to identify needs and opportunities well before others became aware of them.  I expect these attributes will serve her, and us, well when she takes her chair at the Council table.

Rick Bradley (playingwithmyfood.ca)

14 June 2018


As Karen’s grandson, I have always looked up to her as a leader in our community. Everywhere she would take me (from church to Park’s Blueberries to Uncle Tom’s Cabin), she would introduce me to someone new. With these many connections, I believe that she will continue to make Chatham-Kent a better place.

As a young person, I see many of my childhood friends leaving Chatham behind for bigger cities. They may not realize this, but they are leaving behind opportunities to be influential leaders in this community. I, for one, believe that anyone with a bright idea and determination can become a leader. When I finish my studies, it is my hope that I will be able to return to Chatham-Kent to find employment in my chosen field and be a part of what I know is a community with great potential.

Just this past weekend, I participated in a Hackathon for child mental health in downtown Toronto. My teammates and I were challenged with developing a solution to assist help-seeking young people access community and social services close to home. Our solution, which was thought to be an original idea, turned out to be incredibly similar to 211ontario.ca, a service that has been provided in Chatham-Kent for 20 years. Despite the usefulness and necessity of the service, I did not know of its existence until I returned home and had a chat with my DeeDee, who was instrumental in introducing 211 to Chatham-Kent over 20 years ago! Wait till I tell my Hackathon team!

– Trent Chappus, Software Engineering Student at Western University.

14 May 2018