Even as a child, Jodi Cooke seemed destined for a role in finance. Growing up, she watched the accountant at her father’s drywall company prepare the financial reports, and as she matured, she took on more bookkeeping responsibilities. Later, her father’s accountant became her mentor, guiding Cooke down her own path toward the profession.
Electoral administration, on the other hand, wasn’t on Cooke’s radar—not until a peer recommended she apply for a temporary position at Elections BC in 2004. She did so, and she was hired, eventually transitioning into a full-time position while she finished her education, which included obtaining a CGA designation. Today, as Elections BC’s manager of provincial electoral finance, she serves the people of British Columbia. Here, she explains how her role supports the nonpartisan, independent organization in its role as a leader in electoral administration, educating political candidates on the campaign-financing requirements of new legislation.
Elections BC, by definition, is pretty unique in that there are no other offices in the province that do the work we do. However, what is consistent with other offices is that we ensure processes and procedures are in line with the requirements of legislation and also with our organizational values. For us, that contributes to a very high level of compliance and client satisfaction.
I’m self-made in the respect that I worked my way up through the organization. Starting as a temporary employee and then being able to say that now I manage the department where I started is incredible. A lot of what I went through has helped define the type of person I want to be as I pursue my own professional development. I recognized that in order to be successful, you have to continue to reach forward and search out opportunities—they’re not going to be delivered to your door like pizza—and you cannot get discouraged with the bumps that make the journey seem more challenging.
Today, I’m in a position with the opportunity to help others identify their goals, work towards them, and encourage their professional development. I enjoy sharing my stories with others, talking about my path to where I am today. I also have a more enlightened view when it comes to involving my team and getting their feedback on the work we do. I was very fortunate to have engaging supervisors who provided me with excellent opportunities to provide input on the process. This was really inspiring and has definitely shaped the type of manager that I aim to be. It also helps that I can honestly say to my team, “I know what you’re doing, because less than a decade ago I was doing it.”
Outside the office
Jodi Cooke is a family-oriented person. She enjoys spending time with her family at Shawnigan Lake and also happens to be a motorcycle enthusiast, having started riding Harley-Davidsons at the age of 17. Cooke also spends time volunteering as a CPA board member for her local accounting chapter. The work gives her the opportunity to give back to the accounting community and to network with new or potential accounting students. For the past three years, Cooke has been a member of the Southern Vancouver Island Chapter of the Certified General Accountants Association of Canada in a variety of positions.
At a really high level, my responsibility includes upholding the electoral-financing provisions of the British Columbia Election Act. What that boils down to is making sure that the playing field is level for provincial political parties and other elector participants in BC. So my day-to-day work tends to vary depending on where we are in the election cycle. Generally, my work includes guiding a team of compliance specialists to ensure election participants are aware of the financing requirements of the legislation—so, making difficult legislation easy to understand. It also includes ensuring that the participants comply with the requirements, which include filing financial disclosure reports and supervising the review of all those reports to ensure accuracy, compliance, and transparency.
The size and composition of my team may vary, depending on what electoral events are happening. During larger events, we often hire co-op students. This is how I first started. A large component of my role is education, including internal training of finance staff on the Election Act and [the] purpose of their role so that they can serve our clients. It also includes providing feedback and support to co-op students as they gain workplace experience.
My role also includes a lot of external training. General elections are years apart. Although the rules and requirements are relatively constant, there can generally be a high turnover of clients from year to year. So, with every event, we’re working to educate new financial agents on the rules. It can also be difficult because we don’t necessarily know who the candidates or the representatives are until they’re in the middle of the campaign period. Unscheduled electoral events can also occur in our business, which can add to the challenge, but that’s also part of the fun!
Part of the strategy in my area is to connect with registered political parties before each election. We developed great lines of communication so that they can ask us questions about the process and the requirements of the legislation. We also offer them various opportunities for training and encourage them to ask us questions so that they can learn what they need to know through the event.