by Colin F. Smith
Morinville News Correspondent
The Sturgeon County mayoralty election is now a contest following a decision by Alanna Hnatiw to challenge incumbent Tom Flynn, who announced his re-election bid in June.
Hnatiw is one of the founders of Sturgeon United Residents For Effective Accountable Leadership (SUREAL), a group that has been critical of the current council’s handling of county issues and pressed it on expenditures and organizational practices.
Hnatiw has said that during her campaign she will be stepping aside from SUREAL, which has a declared policy of neither running nor endorsing political candidates.
A run for the mayoralty wasn’t something she was contemplating even a short time ago, she told Morinville News.
“I was asked by a number of people why I wasn’t running,” Hnatiw said. “I had not considered it because I was pleased with the representative in my division.”
That left only her one other option if she wanted to see improvements. The position of mayor was one where she thought she could bring about change.
“I think a person can only sit back and criticize for so long,” she said, adding that being on the outside of the conversation and the decisions being made was not having the effect she wanted.
Born in Saskatchewan, Hnatiw moved to Alberta when she was 20 and has lived in the area for 16 years. She and her husband have two children and reside north of Morinville in Division 5. They operate an oilfield service company that pressure tests blowout preventers.
As well as having been a stay-at-home mom, Hnatiw has been a yoga teacher for four years and also provides riding instruction.
In their businesses they have been innovators, particularly in oilfield recycling, she noted.
“Even in my work with yoga and horses, I’ve been innovating in both those fields.”
Similarly, she feels that it is important for government to be innovative, not just in technology but also in processes and the use of resources, including human resources.
One measure she is committed to if elected is doing a value assessment to see if the country is running as efficiently as possible.
A specific concern for Hnatiw is the operation of the county’s public works department, and why road maintenance was taken in-house, leading, she said, to deterioration in quality, and then returned to contracting out. At the same time, public works staff opted to unionize.
“I think we need to take a good look at what went on in that process.”
Hnatiw feels the state of the county’s roads remains an issue. Major expenses such as the proposed county campus, intended to consolidate a number of government functions, need to be revisited.
Another major concern is the effects of the new land use bylaw, which she believes is overly complex and tends toward over-regulation of property use.
Economic issues that need to be addressed include diversification of the tax base to avoid overdependence on expected revenue from heavy industry.
“We need to have open doors and open minds when it comes to developers looking at our region,” said Hnatiw. “We need to be realistic about driving dollars in here, creating jobs and maintaining businesses we have here.”
Strengthening communication between council and the public is also needed.
“The general consensus among members of the public is that they are not being heard, not receiving enough information,” she asserted.
While working with SUREAL, Hnatiw has expressed frustration with what she has seen as the uncooperative approach of the administration. The group has also stated its belief that administrators have too much sway over council policies and decisions.
As a result, if elected mayor her relations with the administration would at first be “tenuous,” she stated. However, Hnatiw maintains that challenging the way things are done is the way to make improvements and move forward.
“I’m just looking for us to support one another in doing better. If we’re all working toward the same goal that shouldn’t be a bad thing.
“Because I really believe it’s about public service. I really believe we need to understand the service part of public service.”
As a candidate, Hnatiw feels it is necessary to examine what has gone right and wrong in the past, but her focus will be on the future.
“I want to run a positive campaign,” she said.