By Alderman Wayne Rothe
We know that at least two newcomers will be elected to Spruce Grove city council to replace the retiring members.
We have some smart, well-intentioned new candidates running who seem to be free thinkers.
Having free-thinking councillors has always been exceptionally high on my priority list for those who lead my community. I want people who will challenge the status quo; I don’t want bobble heads. I want colleagues with points of view that sometimes differ from mine who will challenge staff recommendations and my opinions. I respect people who make me change my mind. I also want people who will respect my opinion when it differs from theirs.
I’m going to give the newcomers some advice that may help them in their campaigns, but more to help those who are elected. It’s important to be prepared for what’s ahead.
I believe that the first year after this election will be the most important in Spruce Grove’s history.
Council’s decision on the proposed sport and event centre will be huge. Proponents say that it will be a wonderful addition to our community but opponents think that it’s a lot of money and will saddle us with a lot of debt for the wrong facilities. This will be our biggest decision ever and we have to get this one right.
Right after the election the new candidates will have a multi-million dollar budget thrown at them and you’ll have to learn fast as the budget usually is approved late in November. There will be a tonne of reading and little time to get it done. A budget is a great orientation on City finance and priorities and it’s one of your best learning opportunities. You’ll also need to learn about land-use planning, law, conduct, and lots more fascinating stuff. Our staff will orient all of us.
It appears that some of the new candidates may not realize the limits of our authority. We have no individual decision-making power; only a council of seven does. Be careful making promises. You can advocate for something, but don’t promise to achieve specific things.
We’re a small city but this is not a small job. You’ll have to make personal sacrifices. There are many meetings, especially initially with the budget, council meetings, orientations, committee and board meetings, and many community events.
Sometimes new elected officials severely underestimate the time commitment. Expect to spend about 20 hours a week at the job – but it could be more. Elected officials with jobs and young families need to know the impact the job will have on them. Some weeks I’m not home for supper at all with my wife until the weekend.
You’ll be lauded in the community when things go well, but council decisions will be scrutinized – and, at times, highly criticized. Broad shoulders are necessary.
Our work is rewarding. It’s best to go in with eyes wide open.