Do you want to be a city councillor?

By Alderman Wayne Rothe
The federal and provincial governments are considered senior to the municipal level but I’d argue that local government is the most important level.

When you get up in the morning, you expect the water to be there for your shower. We provide that. You drive on roads that are built and maintained by your local municipality. When there is a blizzard overnight, you expect to be mobile as soon as is feasible. We do all of those things.

Cities, towns and counties provide most of the services that you depend on every day. We own and operate 60 per cent of all infrastructure in Canada yet we do all of this with by far the smallest share of the tax pie.

I want to encourage citizens with an interest in politics to consider running in the upcoming election Oct. 16. Yes, I’m encouraging others who may be after my job. With a major election issue looming (I’ll write about the proposed event centre at some point), I expect that several newcomers will step forward.

I think you’d be surprised what we actually do and by the powers that we have – and don’t have.

As individuals we have no decision-making authority or any ability to direct staff. If you call one of us because your garbage was missed we can only put you in touch with staff to rectify your issue.

Only our council of seven (a mayor and six aldermen) has any decision-making authority. (Yes, we’re called aldermen – including the women who serve.) We don’t actually run the city, although some people think we do. We set policy, establish service standards, approve development plans and so on, but day-to-day operations are the responsibility of our staff.

Our biggest decision comes in November when we approve the annual budget – our corporate plan. This document is our how-to manual for applying city council’s vision for our community to all that we do – including land-use planning, roadway and other construction projects and the daily tasks of running a small city such as Spruce Grove.
Our jobs are mostly part-time, although we’ve recently made the mayor’s position full-time starting after the election.

To be effective you’ll need a genuine desire to work for the betterment of your community. You need to be a critical thinker able to grasp the nuances of financial management as well as all else that we deal with. You’ll have a say in how land is to be used to ensure the proper allocation and design of residential, commercial, industrial and institutional areas. This diversity and the ability to positively influence my community are what I like best about my job.

You’ll need a thick skin for those times when we’re criticized for our decisions. Expect to put in a lot of hours – perhaps 20 hours a week. We get a detailed orientation that starts in November and December but sessions are ongoing.

You’ll need to be a team player but you should also be a free thinker. I always appreciate when a colleague has an opinion that’s different than mine and it makes me reconsider my point of view.

Oh, there is one more skill you’ll need to be effective. You’ll first have to be elected. Based on the numbers in the last election you’ll likely have to convince some 2,800 people that you’re worthy. There are election forums, door knocking is required and social media are there to help you get your message out.

If you think you have what it takes, nomination day is Sept. 18. Nominations will be accepted from 10 a.m. to 12 noon at city hall.

Feel free to contact me if you have questions.

You’ll find more useful information here, and here

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