Much of Council playing campaign cards close to the vest

By Stephen Dafoe

Morinville – With nomination day just three months away, not everyone on Council is ready to play his or her campaign cards just yet. Of the six current members of Council, only four were prepared to say they were ready to throw their hat in the ring come fall. Only two of those said with certainty what chair that hat would be tossed at.

Mayor’s decision will be determined by health

Mayor Paul Krauskopf said he wants to keep his job as Morinville’s mayor, but his decision to run again will be determined for certain once he gets an update on his health.

“I’ve got a couple questions that need to be answered by certain people and I’m just waiting for that to happen,” the mayor said. “That’s exactly what it’s about, and of course it involves my health. That’s where I stand. If I get the go ahead [from doctors] I’ll be there.”

Krauskopf was appointed mayor after Mayor Lloyd Bertschi stepped down due to his work commitments outside the community. Krauskopf, who will have served on Council for 15 years at the end of this term, said he was grateful for the opportunity to be Morinville’s mayor.

“I’m truly enjoying it and I thank my colleagues for giving me the opportunity to do that,” he said. “It’s been great. I like to hope I’ve made some inroads and advancing us at the CRB [Capital Region Board]. We are getting a little more respect there for the Town of Morinville. I’ve really enjoyed the short stint I’ve been mayor so far.”

Krauskopf said there is a lot more work to be done, work he is hoping to do as mayor. “I surely want to be part of that,” he said, adding his proudest accomplishment this term is working to keep taxes in line. “I think that although people think we have high taxes in Morinville, I think we’ve done a lot of progress in keeping our taxes as low as we can, and we are working on the 2 or 3 per cent increases to keep things going,” Krauskopf said. “I think that is pretty good. Eventually, we are going to be in a good position in the region of being in the lower taxes. I think we are working our way in that direction.”

Krauskopf said he is anticipating a number of names on the ballot this election. “I am sure it is going to be highly contested from what you hear out there,” he said. “A lot of people are interested in running, and I think that is a good thing. It keeps everybody honest and on track. We’ll see what happens on Oct. 21.”

Holmes planning to run another term

Lisa Holmes, currently serving her six-month term as Deputy Mayor, said she will run in the fall election but did not elaborate on which office she may run for.

“Yes, I will be running for re-election,” Deputy Mayor Holmes said. “I am going to take some time [to] discuss options with my family and friends and to evaluate how I feel that I can best serve the community and achieve the vision that I have for Morinville’s future.”

Holmes said three years is a short period of time, a period where she feels she has only just begun. “We’ve spent a lot of time organizing and cleaning up – not that there was things that Council hadn’t done. There were just things that needed to be looked at again, processes that had to be refined,” Holmes said. “Now we’re at the point where we are able to start doing some projects and getting activities completed. That’s really exciting.”

Though she feels there is much work yet to do, she feels fortunate that she has accomplished a lot during her first term on Council. She is looking for another term to carry on that work.

Reflecting on the last few years, Holmes said she is most proud of the work Council has done regionally. “The proudest accomplishment I think Council has done is just our regional partnerships, our renewed relationship with Sturgeon County,” Holmes said. “It’s going to open up a tonne of opportunities for us in the future. The ability to work as a region is the future of governance and, provincially, the Capital Region Board and all of the different projects and opportunities that they open up for us, like transit that we can’t do on our own right now, but we can be involved in the bigger picture planning because these things are going to be coming down the road.”

Holmes said renewing the relationship with each individual County Council member has been important to her. “I think we’ve done that. We’re getting to the point where we have regular meetings, where we are about to sign the water line agreement and get that completed. Some of these things that have been longstanding, we are able to say that we moved forward a lot with that. The Regional Rec[reation] Master Plan is another one.”

The Deputy Mayor said there are opportunities Morinville will need to partner with the County on in the future. “We have to look at the Northwest upgrader and how that will affect our community,” she said. “We need a good relationship with them, both on the Council and the staff side.”

On a personal level, Holmes said her proudest accomplishment is graduating from the Elected Officials Education Program in her first year. “I’m the 26th in the province to graduate from it,” she said. “I feel education in this job is essential. You don’t come in as an expert in anything to do with the Town and you have to be educated to make proper decisions. That was a lot of work and a lot of personal sacrifice. I think that was my biggest personal accomplishment.”
Additionally, the Town’s adopting the Incredible Edible initiative, which originated in Yorkshire, England, is something Holmes sees as a highlight of her term. The initiative looks to turn parks, trails and Town planter boxes into mini and maxi community gardens by planting fruit trees, bushes and vegetables in addition to the normal annuals, perennials and shrubs found dotting the community’s green spaces.

“Getting that through as a project I championed through the budget process, and seeing it happening now is just incredible.”

Boutestein loves the job and wants to keep it

Councillor Nicole Boutestein says she is not a politician, never has been, and has no intention of ever becoming one. Rather, the life-long resident of Morinville sees herself as someone elected by voters to do a job. She is hoping those voters will elect her to that job once again this fall. “I don’t have any aspirations of taking a political career any further,” she said. “I would like to sit on Council. I love being a Councillor. I really do.”

Boutestein said reading the often-long Council agenda packages can sometimes be overwhelming, but she spends a lot of time reading the entire package so as to be able to ask the right questions for residents. “I love the fact it gives me an opportunity to go out there and voice my concerns and my questions, which I believe are probably 90 per cent of the population’s questions,” she said. “They are every day questions that I can bring to the table.”

But sitting in Council Chambers is not the only part of the job she enjoys. This term Boutestein has – among her various Council duties – served on the Highway 642 Functional Planning Study Committee and the Morinville Public Library Board. She has found both to be rewarding experiences.

“To me, that [Highway 642 Plan] is going to be a huge economic driver for the town,” she said, adding she sees the work as paving the road for the community’s economic future. “It’s our future tax base. It’s our future economy for the town. It’s not only going to affect our taxes, it will affect the amount of people that can work in town and the amount of people that can shop in town. If you can live, work and play here – that’s going to bring more people in.”

As part of the Library Board, Boutestein said she is particularly pleased to have worked on a budget that asked Council for less money in 2013 than in 2012, despite the facility’s increased space, hours and staff. “I’m very thrifty on that board as well,” Boutestein said, adding she is pleased with the work the library is doing sourcing outside long-term corporate sponsorships. “I’m just one person on that board. The board itself was going in the right direction this year. It sets us up for future years where we are not always asking the Town for more money.”

Though her name will be on the fall ballot, she said she is focused on continuing her work as a sitting councillor.

“I started this term three years ago. We were elected in October and that means my job is until the day of the election in October,” Boutestein said, adding she intends to focus on her job and not her campaign. “I’m not going to stop now and pre-campaign. Not everything that happens now is a campaign. I’m still here like I was six months ago. You have to be stronger [in Council] because no one is listening right now. I’m not putting anyone else in an awkward spot, but there are too many campaign issues out there right now. It’s not a campaign issue. Everybody was hired by the voters exactly like I was, and we all need to finish the work the same.”

For Boutestein, that work is doing the community’s work. “I’m not self-serving. I’m not here for myself. I’m here for the community,” she said, adding she often asks questions about how money is spent. “You might say I’m frugal or I’m cheap, but the Town’s money is essentially my money. I look at it as being money that is in my bank account and the ratepayers’ bank accounts. I’m accountable for every penny that’s there and if I don’t know or don’t understand why it is being spent in that way, it’s my job as a councillor to be very clear as to why we are spending it.”

Fingler says running is a certainty

Council’s newest member Sheldon Fingler, who was elected in last fall’s by-election, is a name that voters can expect to see on the fall ballot. But just what ballot that name will be on is uncertain. Fingler said he has not yet decided whether he will run in the fall election as a councillor or as mayor.

“It is not completely out of the question,” Councillor Fingler said of running for mayor, adding his final decision will be based on determining where he feels he will be of most service to the community. “It is still one of those questions yet to be answered.”

But regardless of whether running for a council seat or the mayoral seat, Fingler said he is motivated to run for a shot at a full term for the same reasons he ran in the by-election.

“I want to make Morinville the place my kids choose to move to when they grow up and move out of my house,” Fingler said. “I want to make Morinville the place [where] my kids stay. I don’t care about provincial politics. I don’t care about all that other stuff. I care about Morinville. I ran because I love Morinville.”

Fingler said he is not a candidate running on the things he does not like about the community. “That’s what bugs me most,” he said. “Everybody talks about what they hate about Moinville. I ran because I love Morinville, and that’s what’s important to me. I want to make Morinville that place.”

Fingler said photo radar is a good example of the negative versus positive of an issue. “I don’t like how we are doing photo radar,” he said. “Right now photo radar is a cash cow. I was told that photo radar was brought in as a tool to educate our residents and bring down speeds. Then why are they hiding? If it were an enforcement tool, they would be hiding. If it was an education tool, they would be doing those vehicles that are out in the open. Are we doing what we say we are doing? Are we building the Morinville that people want to stay in or are we building the Morinville that people don’t like?”

Though only on Council for one year by the time the term ends, Fingler said he is pleased with what he has learned in a short time and pleased with the work he has done on Council thus far. But he realizes a second term would allow him to continue that work.

Having once worked for Morinville’s Public Works Department, Fingler said he was able to get traction quicker than most newly elected councillors because he had an understanding of municipal processes and budgets already.

Looking back over the past year, Fingler said it was hard to put his finger on what he was most proud of having accomplished because he joined council in the closing year of a three-year term. As such, he feels as though he rode piggyback on the work already established. However, seeing the Highway 642 Functional Planning Study passed by Council was a highlight. “It lays down the fundamentals of Morinville’s future, and it gives us the opportunity to begin some real development growth,” he said. “Economic development is where we’re really lacking and have been for years.”

The councillor said he believes his business background is an important skillset to bring to the Council table. “It’s all about money,” he said. “[Candidates] can talk about money all they want, but until they deal with a million dollar budget … it’s not as easy as saying well let’s put a park in somewhere. You have to be accountable for every dollar. I think about feeding my employees before I think about feeding myself, and when I do stuff with the Town, I think about every dollar before I spend it.”

Fingler said he thinks sometimes the Town is not run like a business but should be. “We are accountable to 8,504 customers, and we have to be accountable to them,” he said. “That’s why you treat it like a business.”

Two Councillors undecided

Councillors David Pattison and Gordon Boddez have not yet made their decisions to run again, but are planning to do so ahead of nomination day.

“I will be making a decision in the next few weeks,” Councillor Pattison said in response to our request for an interview.

Councillor Gordon Boddez said he would be making his campaign decision later this summer. “As you know, I have been a trustee as well as a councillor for the past while,” he said. “I always made a decision to run or not run in August and I simply do not plan to change this now.”

Nomination day for the 2013 General Municipal Election is Sept. 23. Election Day is Oct. 21. The Morinville News will once again host an All Candidates Forum at the Morinville Community Cultural Centre. The forum will be held Oct. 14 at 7 p.m.

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