In the coming days I will make an announcement on whether I will run again in the upcoming election.
In thinking about my last seven years I am reminded of how much work we have done, and wanted to share that with you.
I have spent seven years on council so far, with the majority of the time as your Mayor. I got into politics because it interested me and I wanted to see our community grow. I thought in 2010 when I put my name forward, it looked like things were running fairly smoothly and might be a nice easy warm-up to politics.
Roughly six months, after first being electing, an unthinkable event happen which changed Slave Lake, the Wildfire. We went from a smooth day-to-day functioning council, to a crazy intense council overnight. Councillor’s put in more hours than any other councils in Canada trying to deal with a disaster nobody had ever experienced.
It was grueling, took a toll on me both mentally and physically. That being said we, as a community, came together and we all survived thanks in part to our families and those who supported us.
Another huge factor in making the last 5 years easy was the people of this region who never ceased to amaze me. You are a group of people that has strived to make things better and were not afraid to roll up your sleeves to get the job done.
Over the last seven years we have seen improvements to many of our parks and facilities. Those investments have been made to the MRC, a new government building and Library (which was built twice), a new town shop, our new Firehall, the opening of the Legacy Centre, a new group of ball diamonds, we made multiple investments in our parks.
Along with improvements to facilities and parks we looked at things how we did things. Improving government policies, and services levels including; snow removal, grass cutting, utility bills, and the development process. We as council looked at current bylaws to see which ones made sense and which ones could be rescinded.
During my time I have tried too, with the help of all my council, advocated hard for federal and provincial grants. We have been very successful in the majority of the grants we have applied for, which went towards paying for many of the things I discussed earlier in this blog.
We were also successful in obtaining grants for other projects including; enhancements to the airport runway and upgrades to the airport lighting, $6-million dollars for a sewer upgrade, and as I write this a $1-million grant to upgraded to the Multi-Rec Centre.
One of the other areas that has been a passion for me is Healthcare. And over the last seven years we recruited Physicians, increased Physiotherapist in the area, recruited and toured more nursing staff, invested over $450,000 in new healthcare equipment, recruited a private ultrasound clinic to town, and worked with Northern Lakes College to expand their health programs and start training paramedics here in Slave Lake. We also advocated to keep our Medevac plane in this community.
In the last seven years we have learnt a lot about rail safety, and I’m proud to say that we were successful in lobbying CN to invest $500-million in upgrades.
After the fire, council had to navigate through the recovery process, and did approximately $30-million worth of infrastructure recovery. We had to fight hard with the Province of Alberta to get that financial support, but we were successful.
With the help of our administration, we kept tax increases at a 0% for the last two years, while making a variety of fiscal improvement’s.
But let’s be honest, not everything we did was perfect. I will admit we made mistakes along the way and we were not perfect. I could walk away tomorrow knowing I was leaving the town better than it was before.
While I’m deciding on my next step, I want to talk about the future. I believe that future councils will need to focus in on a few areas including; Tourism and Economic Development, supporting the oil, gas and forestry industries.
The Legacy Centre, will be another area a future council will need to focus on. It will need steady support going into the future. Healthcare will need a strong voice, and will continuously need support. We need to continue to work on our relationships with our partners who make up the Tri-Council.
To be honest, I have enjoyed the challenge, I have learnt so much and have met and worked with some amazing people over the seven years I’ve been on council. What I know for sure is I love this community, its people and its spirit.
Before I end this I do want to single out one person, she has been a rock over the last seven years. I want to thank my wife who has been the most understanding and compassionate partner a husband could ever have. I also want to thank my family, my friends, my staff and my neighbours for helping me survive these last seven years. I want to thank the residents who supported me and although we always didn’t agree, at least listened to why we were doing something.
I wish everyone good luck to all those who decided to put forward their names, I hope to make my decision public over the next few days, and I hope everybody gets out and votes in October.