Retirement is definitely not on Theresa Arsenault’s agenda.
“Now that I’m 61, I get asked all the time about retirement,” said Arsenault, one of the partners at the Okanagan’s largest law firm, Pushor Mitchell. “But honestly, why would I retire? I really like what I do and I’m, without a doubt, at my highest value in my early 60s. I have 35 years of experience as a lawyer and I’m well connected, so I’m at my most useful to my clients, my firm and my community.”
This isn’t bragging. Arsenault is unquestionably a force to be reckoned with.
She has the Queen’s counsel title, which is bestowed on only the most exceptional lawyers in British Columbia. She was honoured as business leader of the year at the Kelowna Business Excellence Awards in 2015.
She has a busy and successful practice in commercial, real estate and First Nations law and estate planning. She deftly balances fitness, work, marriage and raising two, now grown up, kids.
And she’s one of Kelowna’s most active advocates and volunteers, lending her hand and talents to a wide range of efforts, from the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce, B.C. Cancer Agency, Okanagan Partnership, Kelowna General Hospital Foundation and United Way to Vancouver Foundation, Okanagan College, UBC Okanagan and UBC Vancouver.
“I really am a perpetual optimist and optimists tend to want to make the world a better place,” said Arsenault. “I really do feel compelled to give back because I am so fortunate to be where I am, to have the education I have and practice in a career where I get to help other people.
“Everyone should use their skills and positions to help other people.”
After growing up in Salmon Arm, Arsenault went to Vancouver to earn her arts and law degrees at UBC.
“I’m drawn to education,” she said. “Education broadens the mind and promotes you to see the value in other people. Really, most of the problems in the world are caused by lack of education. Education is also a stepping stone for empowerment in your personal life, health and career.”
So, it’s no surprise education pops up all the time on Arsenault’s volunteering roster.
As far back as 1987, she led the Getting There By Degrees campaign to allow Okan-agan College to start granting degrees in 1989. As soon as UBC set up a campus in Kelowna, she was there on the external advisory committee to advise the university’s president in Vancouver.
After a stint as UBC board of governors chair, Arsenault is now UBCO’s external community advisory committee co-chair, lobbying for access to education, clean water for the campus and a bus from Penticton to the Kelowna campus (there’s already one from Vernon).
After going to university in Vancouver, Arsenault’s move back to the Interior saw her in Vernon to article and work for four years.
Her community involvement started right away with the Vernon Chamber of Commerce and she was president of Vernon Women in Business.
Joining Pushor Mitchell in Kelowna in 1985 was a turning point for Arsenault.
“I already had an inclination to be involved, but Pushor Mitchell as a firm also has a culture of community service,” she said. “(Name partner) Paul Mitchell got me involved with the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce and that was really my launch pad to volunteering in Kelowna.”
Mitchell was also a mentor to Arsenault and in turn she has grown into a mentor for many younger lawyers, guiding them in both their careers and community work.
Editor’s note: Every week in this space with Top Forty Over 40 we profile a business person over the age of 40 who is having a great career and giving back through mentoring and volunteering. The series is presented by BDO Accountants and Consultants, Kelowna Chamber of Commerce and The Daily Courier. If you know of a deserving over 40 you’d like to nominate, send an email to TopForty@KelownaChamber.org.