By Stephen Dafoe
Sturgeon County – Don Rigney will get the opportunity to serve a second term of office as Sturgeon County’s mayor after being acclaimed Monday following the close of nominations. The noon nomination deadline also ensured another term for councillors in three of Sturgeon County’s six divisions.
Neither Division 1 Councillor Don McGeachy, Division 2 Councillor Tom Flynn or Division 6 Councillor Karen Shaw were opposed in their re-election bids and have been acclaimed along with Mayor Rigney.
However, Sturgeon County’s remaining three divisions are all contested races.
Division 3 Councillor Ken McGillis is being challenged by 21-year-old Catlin Letendre, a resident of the Calahoo area.
Letendre said he was prompted to seek municipal office because of his interest in politics and because of a discussion he had at his father’s 50th birthday party.
The Calahoo Meats employee said maintaining the division’s roads is something he feels is important to area residents, as is the development of the airport and surrounding area.
“With the airport in downtown Edmonton closing down, the Villeneuve airport will probably be seeing increased usage,” Letendre said. “And so careful planning for infrastructure and business growth will be required.”
For Letendre’s opponent, two-term Councillor Ken McGillis, a third term of office is being sought because of the enjoyment and fulfilment he’s experienced over the past six years.
“I believe that the County provides a lot of services for a lot of people,” McGillis said. “A lot of them are my neighbours and friends. I try and ensure that I do the best I can to ensure that we’re providing what they need at a cost that is affordable and at a service that’s satisfactory.”
McGillis said one of the issues he’s hoping to address, if successful in his bid, is the Villeneuve Area Structure Plan, a plan that did not ultimately pass through council.
“We’re reworking it with input from the community and all the affected parties,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll come out at the end of the day with an area structure plan that will be a guiding tool for the development of the community over future years.”
The Division 4 race pits two newcomers against one another to occupy the seat held by long-time Sturgeon County Councillor Jerry Kaup, who served 18 years on Sturgeon County Council after serving six years as a school board trustee. Kaup decided to step down from municipal politics to spend more time on other interests.
Vying for the Division 4 seat are Dave Kluthe and Al Homeniuk, the former a farmer in the division, the latter a retired RCMP officer from the Alcomdale area.
Kluthe, who grew up in the area, said he’s always been interested in what’s going on in Sturgeon County and now that he has sold off his livestock, he now has the time to devote to municipal service.
“I’ve grown up here, I’ve lived here my whole life,” Kluthe said. “I’m kind of in touch with the people in this area. I kind of have an idea what everyone’s looking for.”
The long time resident sees the big issue for his division as being the possibility of the Heartland Transmission Project going through his division rather than Strathcona County, where it was originally intended.
“We’re the second choice, coming through Division 4,” Kluthe said. “I want to help to make sure they stay back in the corridors where they belong. I think the reason they’re coming out this way is they have less taxpayers to step on out this way than there is out in Strathcona way.”
Division 4’s other candidate, Al Homeniuk also felt he had something to contribute to municipal service, a situation that prompted his decision to run for the seat left vacant by Coun. Kaup.
Like Kluthe, Homeniuk said he sees the Heartland Transmission Project as the major issue affecting the division. “Because it touches on the division so much, I want to make sure what does happen is going to be in the best interests of everybody that’s going to be affected,” he said. “If we’re stuck with the darned thing, let’s bury it if we can.”
Additionally, Homeniuk said he feels it’s important for the County to be good neighbours with Morinville and St. Albert.
“I think we just have to make sure that we’re looking out for the best interests of ourselves and our neighbours.” Homeniuk said, noting that the County recently disbanded a municipal development plan it had with St. Albert. “I just want to make sure we’re doing it for the right reasons and for the best interests of the County.”
In Division 5, incumbent Councillor Joe Milligan is being opposed by former Sturgeon County employee Wayne Bullock, who retired as director of infrastructure services in August of 2009.
Incumbent Joe Milligan, who is seeking his second term on Sturgeon County Council, said he was motivated to seek another term because three years is not enough to accomplish the work that has been started.
“We initiated a lot of stuff in our last term that I think needs to be carried on, so I just felt I still have something to contribute,” Milligan said, adding community service is something he feels is incumbent upon all residents.
“I feel everybody owes a certain amount to their community anyway,” Milligan said, noting that municipal service isn’t a job that pays big dollars. “I am retired and I feel if I can give back to the community, then this is my opportunity to give back to the community.”
Milligan said with the help of the next council he wants to continue to build a place where people like to live.
“The ultimate goal is to have a stable municipality that people like to live in and work in,” Milligan said, noting that although agricultural employment opportunities are falling off, the County is looking forward to other opportunities with the future development of upgraders in the area.
For Milligan’s challenger, Wayne Bullock, a high turnover in the County’s senior staff, including his own retirement, early in Mayor Don Rigney’s first term prompted him to seek a seat on Sturgeon County Council.
Bullock said he estimates the direct costs of the senior staff retirements, none of which he feels were voluntary, was approximately $1.2 million dollars.
“Most people aren’t aware of why all these people left,” Bullock said, noting than none of those who left the County were incompetent at their jobs. “Three of us had our Certified Local Government Manager’s certificates, which is an eight year course through the U of A. We weren’t a bunch of dummies.”
But Bullock is quick to point out that his motivation for running is not out of any desire for revenge. Rather, he said his main reason for running is to make people aware of what happens in the future and to not let County wrongs be swept under the rug.”
One area Bullock wishes to address is his allegation that in camera (non-public) meetings are being disguised as working lunches and paid for by the rate payers. Additionally, Bullock would like to put a halt to what he believes is the financing of operations out of reserve and grant funds.
But apart from his criticism of internal County politics and management, Bullock does not see a great deal of issues affecting the County, particularly Division 5.
“The roads are all in fairly good shape now. We’ve got a number of programs that are making better transportation for rural areas. That’s 85 per cent of the situation, the roads. If the roads are good, there is not really too much to complain about.”
Bullock said if elected he would like to see free dust control for County residents, including those in the subdivisions that have gravel roads. Bullock said approximately $550,000 was paid in 2010 to County employees like himself who were encouraged to leave.
“That $550,000 won’t have to be spent in 2011 and that would be more than enough to finance free dust control for everyone in the gravel portion of the County,” Bullock said.
Sturgeon County residents who live in contested divisions will have the opportunity to select their choice for councillor Oct. 18 and during a number of advance polls.
Editor’s Note: Municipal politicians have until noon on Tuesday to withdraw their nomination papers.