by Jennifer Lavallee
Morinville News Correspondent
After thinking about the opportunity for years, Rebecca Balanko has announced she is finally ready to put her name on the ballot during the next municipal election. Balanko, 42, hopes to win one of the six councillor seats available on Morinville Council this coming October. “I love this community,” she said, “…I’ve lived [here] for 15-years, and I’ve raised children here. I’ve planted significant roots in our Town, in work, in volunteering, and in being engaged.”
“I’m not running on one particular platform, per se, but I do have areas of interest that I think are really important,” noted Balanko. Community engagement, youth empowerment, and fiscal responsibility (especially, in regards to identifying budget oversights) are three key areas in which she wants to champion, as well as social responsibility.
“I am very action-orientated,” she added, “and things like attendance, being approachable to anybody and everybody, and community volunteerism…those things all really matter to me.”
Looking ahead at the next four years, Balanko said she sees the next Town Council’s biggest job as being good managers of Morinville’s exponential growth. While growth has been wonderful, she expressed, it also comes with challenges: managing expectations, keeping up with residents’ needs (and wants), and making sure decision makers equally hear everyone’s concerns and issues.
Balanko has served on several boards and committees in Town for more than a dozen years, including on the Jessica Martel Memorial Foundation, as a member of the Champion Foundations (a group organized by Champion Pet Foods that awards micro-grants to community members), and as Chair of an Early Education Parent Committee in Morinville Public School. Many residents know Balanko through her work with the Town’s young people, having most recently led Morinville’s BOYS and GIRLS Groups, as well as through her role as the former Community Resource Coordinator with Sturgeon School Division.
The Town of Morinville awarded Balanko the ‘Volunteer of the Year Award’ in 2011; she has also been recognized by an International Women’s Day group for her work in Youth Empowerment. Nine-years ago, Balanko won a National Rescue Award with the Red Cross for saving the life of someone who was in a serious collision on the highway (as Balanko happened to be driving nearby).
With an educational background in non-profit, fund development, and volunteer-management, Balanko said she is ready to bring her skills to the table as a councillor. As a former Manager for the Canadian Red Cross in Provincial Disaster Management, Balanko also explained she has valuable insight and experience that would be beneficial for someone sitting on Council.
Balanko, who is a mother to two adult-aged children and one school-aged child, also said she wants to see Council continue to support things the Town does well, especially when it comes to youth—such as programming and other initiatives like the Junior Mayor Program.
“I think what I most want people to know about me is this: I’m not a ‘yes-man,’ I’m a doer…I don’t have any qualms about bringing issues forward, even if that means I have to stand alone in my opinion up there on Council…I pride myself on respect and strategic-thinking. At the end of the day, I want people in this Town to feel like they are being heard.”