By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – Shotgun Sally’s manager Christa Marie Naughton has thrown her hat into the ring for Morinville’s upcoming fall mayoral race.
Naughton, 39, has managed the bar on the corner of 100 Avenue and 100 Street for the past seven-and-a-half years and has lived in the community for nearly five years. Over that time she has met and become friends with many people in the community. It was learning their needs that prompted her to run for mayor.
“I just think that Morinville needs some change,” she said. “It needs what the people that I care about, which is the community that I have met so far – they deserve something that they are looking for that they just don’t seem to be getting.”
For Naughton, the missing element is the truth, combined with a real person who understands their concerns because they live and breathe the same way they do.
The candidate said her biggest goal is to do her best not to be a politician. “I guess that will either go for me or against me,” she said, adding she has seen a lot happen in Morinville over here time here, changes that have not always been for the better.
“I think we have seen a lot more accidents, a lot more of our youth get in accidents and die. We have increasing issues with minors [and] drugs and alcohol. Running a Morinville hotel you see a lot of things the community at night doesn’t see or maybe everybody just wants to brush under the rug and not address.”
Naughton said during her time in Morinville she has done her best to run a safe business and wants to extend that concept to the community. “I just want to see Morinville grow and be better, see the youth do something,” she said, adding she has seen many people she knew leave the community over the past five years. “The town is very young now. We are seeing changes, younger families, younger kids living on their own and trying to make their way.”
The business manager said she wants to use what she has seen to make the community better for youth and families. “I’d like to see more programs for kids after dark,” she said, adding she’d also like to see more jobs for youth as well as have residents continuing to live and spend their money in the community instead of going to St. Albert or Edmonton. “While that is a necessity, the only way we are going to get better is to come together, whatever our differences are, and make that change. Not one person can change Morinville all by themselves.”
Naughton said she’d like to see youth engaged through more volunteer work experience programs in town. “When I was young, I did work programs in the summer,” she said. “There needs to be motivation. Kids need to understand there is a reason to put the Xbox down or the iPad, maybe don’t go to that party tonight and drink illegally. There really is more to the world than what they are seeing. I think that every business in Morinville should bring a youth on, volunteer-wise, and educate them. Maybe they won’t financially make money, but they will get experience. That is something I’d want to see, a work experience program.”
Family values important
Naughton believes Morinville needs to get back to the family values that are represented in the town’s slogan – The Family Choice. “I’ve had a chance to sit in people’s homes over the past week and they have told me they have lived here their whole life and it is not community based anymore,” Naughton said. “We’re seeing things happen that you wouldn’t see happen five years ago. I think that crime has risen. I think that alcohol-related issues after dark are an issue. I would like to see a more extensive walkthrough program done by the RCMP. We used to have bike patrols. They would ride throughout the community and speak. As a business owner, that helps. I would stand behind a man that rode a bike, a police officer. People responded to that.”
Charitable work important
Naughton said throughout her time in Morinville she has always tried to be charitable by holding fundraisers for different groups in the community, including the Lions Club and the Jessica Martel Foundation.
One charity Naughton said she was personally involved in starting was Sports Over Streets. “We were trying to raise money to take children in the community (in Morinville) who couldn’t afford to go to dance school, hockey, whatever. We’d raise the money and put it to their hockey school for the week,” she said. “Then we wanted to send them to a camp that raises awareness to them about the dangers of the street and what happens when you pick up a cigarette or a joint versus picking up a hockey stick or a pair of ballet slippers. That was something we have been very passionate about.”
Naughton is involved in a new initiative, the Good Life Project, a concept that evolved out of a friend’s limousine service. “Nobody can get a cab,” Naughton said, adding she and fellow bar owners fight a drunk driving issue every day. “Anywhere that serves alcohol will face that drunk driving issue. After seven-and-a-half years, I got very tired of not being able to provide service to my customers, to the Town of Morinville.”
Where the charity comes in is raising funds to cover the costs of drivers, gasoline and insurance to provide free limousine rides to those in need of a safe ride home. Naughton said the first fundraiser for the Good Life Project took place at her business during St. Jean Baptiste Festival. The event raised $200, monies that will cover the free rides to prevent impaired drivers hitting the road.
More than her work
Naughton said she hopes voters will get to know her during the campaign and come to realize there is more to her than the job she does, a job she said she would leave if she becomes mayor. “I’ve made that very clear and I have said I would resign my position to do this,” she said,” adding she has been troubled by Internet and public comments that have not taken her mayoral bid seriously or have judger her based on her occupation. “Generally, when one side of the story gets told, it’s not the whole story.”
As mayor, Naughton said she plans to listen to people, understanding that residents will see things different ways. Through it all, she has no plans to make promises. “I’m going to listen and say, ‘This is what I will try to do,’” she said. “I’m not going to make promises that I can’t keep. I also feel the Morinville citizens need to be told the truth, and while nobody likes the truth all the time, and that is not a political way, – maybe – I don’t think it is such a bad thing.”
On the complexities of dealing with municipal and provincial matters, including the recently-passed Highway 642 Functional Planning Study, Naughton said she has her own opinions as a resident and taxpayer, but she feels those opinions on the issues are irrelevant. She feels it is important to listen to what the voter thinks and to use every channel available to get the word out in order to get that public input. “We have Facebook. We have Twitter. We have all these things now,” she said, adding more needs to be done to keep people informed on decisions the town is making. “There are a lot of people I’ve spoken with that said they didn’t know anything about it [Highway 642 plan].”
Though the candidate sees herself as more than the work she does, she feels running a business in the community for the past half decade plus is a skill she would bring to her role on Council. Beyond that, it is her unique take on the role of mayor that she feels is important. “I believe I’m unlike any other mayor candidate Morinville will ever see because I’m real,” she said. “I’m not going to put on a suit and change. I want to hear what they really think, and if that means I have to sit down in a coffee shop and listen to them, sit in a bar and listen to them, I’m going to do it. I guess I’m a little unconventional for what people think a mayor should be, but I think that is in my benefit. I think that it is time Morinville makes a change and says the everyday person [can run]. Let’s get away from this society label and let’s let everyone know you can do anything you want if you put your mind to it.”
Naughton said she is looking forward to meeting people as she begins knocking on doors over the next few months.