Niagara Regional Housing Board of Directors

Niagara Regional Housing is governed by a Board of Directors. In order to serve our community from a wide range of perspectives, the NRH Board has representation from the community and Niagara Regional Council.

Current Membership

Walter Sendzik - Chair - Regional Councillor, St. Catharines

Councillor Walter Sendzik is serving his second term on regional council in his capacity as mayor of the City of St. Catharines.

Councillor Sendzik was born and raised in St. Catharines. In 2014, as a first time candidate for political office he was elected as mayor of St. Catharines and re-elected in 2018. As mayor, Walter brings a strategic focus and business-like approach to city hall where he has focused on streamlining processes and building a culture of excellent customer service. Since becoming mayor, the City of St. Catharines has approved a new strategic plan and economic development strategy, stabilized tax rate increases and implemented long-term budgeting.

With a background in business, Councillor Sendzik has been a strong advocate for local business and regularly meets with local businesses, employers and investors. Understanding transportation as key for business success and getting people to work, school and services, Councillor Sendzik has led in the transformation of inter-municipal transit from pilot project to a permanent service that will connect all of Niagara's communities. He has helped bring private sector partners to community events and worked with the development community on a new Housing Action Plan.

In 2015 Councillor Sendzik launched the Compassionate City initiative which has helped inspire St. Catharines' residents to take action to build a city where everyone belongs. With his open door policy, Councillor Sendzik is accessible to residents, charities and community groups and regularly participates in fundraisers, 5 k’s and cultural experiences. He's focused on building on the progress and momentum of the city and the greater Niagara region as an attractive place to live, work and invest.

Prior to becoming mayor, Councillor Sendzik was the chief executive officer of the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce. During his seven years at the chamber, he led the evolution of the local chamber into a truly Niagara chamber with more than 1,400 members. Under his leadership, the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce established itself as the largest business organization in Niagara and the third largest in Ontario. It is also the only chamber in Niagara to receive accreditation with distinction for operational excellence by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. Prior to the chamber, Councillor Sendzik founded Vines Publishing, a company specializing in wine and travel magazines and wine books. He sold the company in 2005 and has co-authored five books including Vines: The Buyer’s Guide to Canadian Wine and The Insider’s Guide to Niagara Wine Country.

Councillor Sendzik has served on local and provincial boards, including Niagara College, Hotel Dieu Shaver, Pathstone Mental Health, and LCBO, and currently serves on the boards of:

  • Niagara Regional Housing
  • Municipal Property Assessment Corporation
  • Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative Board of Directors
  • LUMCO, the Large Urban Mayor's Caucus of Ontario.

In 2008 he was awarded the Bernie Gillespie Award by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce as top executive of the year. He is also a recipient of a Niagara Top 40 Under 40 Award, an active Rotarian, and an honourary member of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 24 and the Canadian Polish Society.

Councillor Sendzik holds a masters degree from McGill University and an honours bachelor of arts degree from Wilfrid Laurier University and holds an ICD – Rotman Directors Education Program from the Rotman School of Business.

James Hyatt - Vice-Chair - Community Director, St. Catharines

James has a BA in political science from the University of Manitoba and is a graduate of the Canadian Forces Staff College. He served more than 30 years at bases across Canada and overseas.

Before retiring from the military, he was "a multilingual military officer and pilot with a record of leadership and achievement in planning and executing all aspects of national, NATO and UN operations; working with all levels of management and working with people from diverse cultures." His background plus his hands-on experience over the years as a consultant conducting operational reviews and risk assessment audits are a definite asset.

Karen Blackley - Secretary - Community Director, Thorold

A lifelong resident of Niagara, Karen has been a local Real Estate Broker for more than 20 years. She is very involved in the community as the present Secretary (past President) of the Thorold Credit Union and the Housing Liaison for the Thorold Age-Friendly Committee.

Previously Karen served on the Thorold Municipal Non-Profit Housing Board for 20 years, was the President of the Thorold Community Activities Group and a member of the Niagara Association of Realtors Ethics Committee and the Thorold Physician Recruitment Committee.

Gary Zalepa - Treasurer - Regional Councillor, Niagara-on-the-Lake

Councillor Gary Zalepa is serving his first term on regional council. He served six years as councillor from 2008 to 2014 for the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, which included being chairperson of Community and Development Services, chairperson of Urban Design Committee, member of Municipal Heritage Committee, member of Committee of Adjustment and chairperson of Corporate Services.

As an active community member, Councillor Zalepa is a:

  • Volunteer for 809 Network Squadron Royal Canadian Air Cadets as chairperson of the squadron sponsoring committee
  • Board member for Riverbrink Art Museum in Queenston
  • Rector's warden at St. Mark’s Anglican Church in Niagara-on-the-Lake
  • Volunteer for minor hockey as a coach and referee
  • Past chairperson of Toronto Real Estate Board Affordable Housing Committee
  • Member of the Niagara Association of Realtors, Ontario Real Estate Association, Canadian Real Estate Association and Canadian Professional Sales Association

Councillor Zalepa was owner of Real Estate Brokerage for twenty-five years and is currently the director of strategic growth for Century 21 Canada corporate head office. He was past president of the Niagara Association of Realtors, past chairperson of the Ontario Real Estate Association Government Relations Committee and past chairperson of Canadian Real Estate Association MLS Technology Council.

He is a member of the Niagara-on-the-Lake Sailing Club and has an interest in keel boat sailing and racing.

Betty Ann Baker - Community Director, St. Catharines

A resident of Welland, Betty Ann is the Executive Director of Niagara Peninsula Homes, and sat with the former Coordinated Housing Access Niagara (CHAN) Board. She is a past chair of the Niagara Housing Authority and has more than 39 years experience in the co-operative and non-profit housing sectors both in development and management. She is the recipient of the CMHC award recognizing involvement in the Co-op Housing Sector.

Betty Ann received the 2008 Business Woman of the Year Award. She was also recognized as one of Chatelaine’s women of the year in 2000 for her work with Niagara Presents and Niagara Women’s Enterprise Centre and Niagara Peninsula Homes. Served on the Niagara College Board of Governors.

Barbara Butters - Regional Councillor, Port Colborne

She was elected in Ward 4, Port Colborne in 1997 and held that position for 21 consecutive years. During that time she sat on many committees of council, including the Airport Commission, heritage, environment advisory, animal control muzzle hearings, and Court of Revision under Drainage Act of Ontario, to name a few.

Councillor Butters is a member of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 56 and Port Colborne Feline Initiative, and has volunteered with Bridges Community Health Centre, Port Cares and the Fair Trade Committee. She was also actively involved in minor sports, soccer, and scouting and guides when her children were young. Being active in her community has been a life-long endeavour.

She is married to Larry, a retired paramedic, mother of son Donaven and daughter Skye, and grandmother of Charlene and Aurora. Her hobbies include oil painting, camping, quilting, and she enjoys a love of animals and nature. Her day begins and ends with a great sense of gratitude.

Tom Insinna - Regional Councillor, Fort Erie

He is a licensed private investigator affiliated with Niagara Investigative Associates and an active member of the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 71 as the youth education co-chair.

Councillor Insinna is also a member of the executive of the Fort Erie Knights of Columbus Council 3320, has served on the Fort Erie Community Gaming and Development Corporation for the last 12 years and is a member of the RCMP Veterans Association and the National Association of Federal Retirees.

Councillor Insinna has received the RCMP Long Service and Medal for honourable service in the RCMP, the Order of Saint John Priory Award, and the Optimist International Law Enforcement Award.

Betty Lou Souter - Community Director, St. Catharines

As Chief Executive Officer of Community Care, St. Catharines & Thorold, Betty Lou provides oversite to the 21 integrated programs and services that support the less advantaged on their journey to independence and self sufficiency including but not limited to food and shelter security, money management and other related life skills.

She is a committed and dedicated volunteer with more than 40 years of experience in the voluntary sector and was one of 11 Ontarians who received the Ontario Medal for Good Citizenship in 2011.

Betty Lou serves on the Board of the Pathstone Foundation, the Niagara Workforce Planning Board, Hotel Dieu Shaver, FACS, and was recently appointed to the Federal Judicial Advisory Committee for the province of Ontario.

Leanna Villella - Regional Councillor, Welland

Councillor Villella was born and raised in Welland and has been the successful small business owner of Rose City Travel for 30 years. She is a graduate of the Niagara College law clerk program having been the recipient of the Peter Kormos Memorial Scholarship for Social Justice. She is presently employed by Steven L. Nagy Law Firm as a real estate law clerk.

She is an active volunteer for growing community events including chair and one of the founding members of Welland Guinness Award, winning Canadian Tire Floatfest and a member of the Feast Street Niagara team. All events helped to raise the profile of her community.

Councillor Villella volunteered a decade of her life to CARSA, Niagara Regional Sexual Assault Centre and participated in the Child Assault Prevention Program. She is a strong supporter of local initiatives to better the lives of the citizens of Welland, such as Open Arms Mission, Faith Welland Outreach, parking lot food drives and Welland Food Drive, the Semicolon Campaign to increase mental health awareness and many others to assist the vulnerable in her community.

Councillor Villella is the mother of two amazing children, Kelsey and Christian.

NRH Board Meeting Schedule and Minutes


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