By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – A local businesswoman, substitute teacher, community volunteer and mother of two is running for a seat on Morinville Town Council. Jackie Luker, who ran in the 2010 general election and 2012 by-election, is taking another crack at a seat on Council.
“It’s just a desire to be part of that whole process,” Luker said of running a third time. “I want to make a difference from what I can do. I have a very strong belief in what community is. To me, small towns are what make Canada great. You need a small town with a community feel so that people get involved. I want to be part of that process to get people involved in Morinville.”
Luker does not see Morinville’s growth as contrary to the small town feel that draws so many to Morinville or, as was the case with her family, back to Morinville. Nor does she see the community moving away from the sense of community that is part of her vision for Morinville. “I don’t think we are moving away from it,” she said. “I just think we are moving slower that what we want to see.” For the Council candidate, part of moving things forward is ensuring residents have pride in their community and reasons to be proud. “Somehow we have to get it into the community that we [Morinville] are quality, we are worthy, and you do not have to go into St. Albert to do everything,” she said. “It only takes one person to say, ‘You know what? We are great.’”
The candidate said she believes trying new things on offer in Town is a good step towards residents, including herself, looking outside their comfort zones. A recent chance outing to this past spring’s Calvin Volrath show has resulted in her planning to attend again.
Issues at hand
Luker said there are several issues on the horizon for the next Council to address, including the current Council’s inability to work together as a group. “I think whomever gets in need to be people that can work with other people, whether you agree with them or not,” she said. “Respect each other’s views.”
Beyond that, Luker sees economic development, creating a sense of community that keeps people in Morinville, and growth as key issues. “Unless we are expanding in some direction, we are not going to get people in,” she said. “We have to decide if we are going to be a bedroom community or are we going to become the hub of our region. Morinville is at that point where we can become something or just become the same as everybody else.”
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Luker does not think it is essential to race to become a city right away or to hang on to being a small town. “I think the best of both worlds would be to maintain that community feel and grow at the same time,” she said. “If we get beyond 20,000 people in our community at some point, then we are way past small town. As the community gets bigger, and if we actually start to utilize the people that are in our community instead of looking elsewhere, … our programs can grow within themselves.” She said programming is a two-sided matter. For programs to grow and continue, residents must take advantage of them. “Can we run a program for two kids? Sure we can, but then it goes back to the whole idea that you are wasting my tax dollars for two kids. It’s a balancing game and we’ve got to figure out how that works,” Luker said.
While she wants to see community programs grow, she wants to make sure taxes don’t. “I have to pay taxes too, so I don’t want to see them go through the roof,” she said. “But I think you have to be realistic in thinking if your community is going to grow, taxes may in fact have to go up.” What is important to the candidate is ensuring residents are getting the best value in services for the tax dollars they are paying. “There has to be some level of accountability,” she said, adding though not in favour of firings, it is important to make sure staff are bringing value to their positions to ensure the Town’s biggest expense is resulting in true value for the tax dollars spent.
Skills on the table
Luker holds a physical education degree from the University of Alberta and a teaching degree from the University of British Columbia. She currently is a substitute teacher and owns and operates Straight UP Bar and Beverage Services, a company that provides certified staff and services for licensed events. Additionally, Luker is a skating instructor, is the vice Chair of the Morinville Block Parent Association, sits on the executive with the Alberta Block Parent Association and volunteers with the Canada Day Celebrations Committee.
Luker believes her experience in education has afforded her the opportunity to learn time management, general management, how to deal with behavioural issues, and how to work with people in general. “There’s lots of really good stuff in teaching, so I bring my ability to organize multi-level things and to be involved,” she said, adding she sees her ability to work with people, even when holding differing opinions, to be an asset in Council Chambers.