So while everyone is out enjoying themselves on the water, BBQ-ing with their family, sitting around the campfire, cooking smores, I want to talk to you about the fifth season of 2017.
The fifth season is the furthest thing from your mind, and some might not even know it we are fast approaching it, but Election season kicks off across Alberta in September. This is when those interested in running for municipal council put their names forward, and pitch their vision for the municipality, town, or city they live in.
This blog might be for a few select people but I want to give you some ideas on what running for council is all about.
With a population of just around 7,000, this October 16th, residents from Slave Lake will be electing six (6) councillors and one (1) mayor. These elected officials will be elected on an at-large basis, where everyone gets to vote for the mayor and everyone gets to vote for six (6) councillors. In larger urban centres, elections can be held on a ward system, where the city is divided into areas and councillors represent the area in which they were elected. Here in Slave Lake, councillors and the mayor represents the entire Town.
First off in order to run you have to be a Canadian citizen, 18 years or older, and have lived in Slave Lake for six (6) months or longer, consecutively. You require five (5) signatures from residents in Slave Lake that are eligible voters, either family or friends, endorsing you, and on September 18th you drop this "nomination for," at the Town Office between 10 A.M. and 12 noon, and then start campaigning.
On October 16th, residents from Slave Lake gather to vote for the next council. And if you are lucky you will be elected to help shape the future of Slave Lake, and the direction the town goes.
As a councillor you will be expected to meet three (3) times a month for a council meetings, (Two Regular Meetings and One Committee of the Whole). Meetings start at 7:00 P.M. and go from anywhere between 2-4 hours. These meetings are designed for discussion, debate and decision.
Council will create policy, explore ideas and often have members of the public in attendance and who wish to speak on their views or issues.
Along with those three (3) meetings, councillors are expected to represent council on other committees that meet in the Slave Lake Region. These committees deal with things like landfill, airport, economic development, protective services, Firesmart, Tri-council issues, Intermuinicpal discussions, Library and Watershed, etc.
Currently there are fifteen (15) committees, as a potential councillor you will be expected to sit on between three (3) and six (6) of them. Some meet during the day, others in the evening. These committees can meet up to fifteen (15) times a year, with others only meeting on an as needed basis.
Above that council can sometimes meet over specific topics that require many hours of discussion. Typically, council tries to do these meetings on the Tuesday before regularly scheduled meetings.
In addition to these, we also deal with a couple other big items that come up on a regular annual basis. These items include budget, strategic planning, and AUMA (conference all elected leaders throughout Alberta towns and cities attend).
There is some travel as a councillor, but it is quite limited. You would need to have some flexibility in your schedule as “stuff” comes up. Above this you need to budget time to meet with the public, hear issues, attend events, speak at community functions, etc. You will also need time to prep for meetings.
The job requires a lot of reading and a quiet a bit of research.
Now this sounds like a lot. And truth be told it actually is.
I will admit that it is probably one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had in my life. The job is never boring; you learn a tonne about a variety of items. You meet some great people you otherwise would probably never get to know. It also gives you a new appreciation for what is REALLY important. It has opened my eyes and mind to new ways of thinking and looking at things. I have also learned that good decisions usually require time and good information. I have learned that ideas are easy and plans are hard.
Over the coming weeks, your current elected leaders will announce if they are interested in dedicating another four years of their life to public service, and some may announce their intentions to step down.
But it is my hope that some new people with new ideas, that have the time and the energy, step forward and put their name on the ballot.
Our community will only ever be as great as the people who shape its future. We have some outstanding people in this community and I look forward to seeing some of them step up this fall.
Good luck to all who are willing to try.