Council to appoint new mayor in August

A divided Council sits on opposite ends of the vacant mayor’s chair. Mayor Paul Krauskopf’s passing June 30 left Council with making the decision as to how and when to fill the vacancy. – Stephen Dafoe Photo

By Stephen Dafoe

Morinville – The mayoral vacancy left by the passing of Morinville Mayor Paul Krauskopf will be filled later this summer. In a 3-2 decision Thursday afternoon, Council moved in favour of having Deputy Mayor Lisa Holmes continue in the acting mayor role until Council’s next regular meeting Aug. 27. Councillors Gordon Boddez and Sheldon Fingler opposed the motion by Councillor Nicole Boutestein, preferring instead to appoint a new mayor now.

Deputy Mayor Holmes called the special meeting for 5:30 p.m. Thursday afternoon to hear Council’s options on filling the vacancy. Holmes and Councillors David Pattison, Gordon Boddez and Sheldon Fingler attended the special meeting in person. Councillor Nicole Boutestein, who is on vacation in the United States, took part in the meeting via video conferencing.

Under the Municipal Government Act, the mayoral vacancy needs to be filled; however, that vacancy does not need to be filled immediately. Council was presented with their options regarding the vacancy – a status quo approach where the Deputy Mayor stays in the seat until the next regular Council meeting at which time a new mayor must be appointed, appoint a new mayor from among the remaining members of Council at Thursday’s special meeting, or calling a by-election. The latter case would have resulted in an Aug. 28 election with the swearing in ceremony to be held Sept. 4, 19 days before nominations would be held for the fall election. The latter option was quickly ruled out.

Councillor Nicole Boutestein made the motion to allow Council additional time to talk things over in light of the mayor’s passing. “Right now I don’t feel any decision that we’re going to make is going to be an effective one,” she said.

Councillor Sheldon Fingler was not in favour of leaving the matter until the next meeting of Council but said he respected the motion. “Although I can appreciate the delicateness of the issue and out of respect to the family, I certainly do understand the concerns of not moving forward,” Fingler said. “But at the same time I think we have a duty to take care of all of our residents.”

In a sentiment that would be echoed by the Deputy Mayor, Fingler said Council had not shown leadership in the past week and a half since the mayor’s death. “I think we as a council have not shown leadership through this trying time,” he said, adding a special meeting announced to media for July 2 or 3 did not happen. “I think this has been a delicate issue that we haven’t handled well. We had announced the meeting that we didn’t hold. Things went on, and it was all of us. It wasn’t one person. I certainly meant no disrespect to anyone. I think we as a group need to move forward.”

Moving forward was also the opinion of Councillor Gordon Boddez. The councillor said he had heard a great deal of discussion around the community on the matter, including reviewing a letter from the Morinville and District Chamber of Commerce urging Council to take action and move forward as soon as possible. “If we have to appoint a mayor by our Aug. 27 meeting, I just don’t see why we wouldn’t do it now,” Boddez said. “We have July and August yet ahead of us. I just don’t see why we wouldn’t do it now. Why would we wait until September and then appoint a mayor for a month and have the election. It just doesn’t make sense to me to do it that way.”

Boddez went on to say a new mayor was appointed immediately upon Mayor Lloyd Bertschi’s resignation from Council in February, and that there was no reason not to do the same now.

Deputy Mayor Holmes supported the Boutestein’s motion to leave things as they are until the next meeting. She echoed Fingler’s sentiments about the lack of leadership on Council. “This thing has been extremely difficult to navigate,” she said, adding a special meeting had been planned for the first week of July but more information was needed from Municipal Affairs. “At that point it was my decision to wait until after Mayor Krauskopf’s funeral to call it. It is difficult because no one expected to be in the situation we are. I don’t think any decision that we make right now is going to be really the right decision. That’s why I’m leaning towards supporting the motion, just because, as much as I agree it would be easy to do it now, emotions are so high for everyone. We are not communicating well as a Council and until that happens, I don’t think anyone is set up to succeed.”

Councillor Nicole Boutestein, who made the motion to wait until Aug. 27 to appoint the interim mayor, said waiting was the right move and that acting now may be something Council would regret. “If we wait until Aug 27, there is really nothing happening between now and then,” she said. “If something comes up we can act together. I’m not sure that it isn’t something that we wouldn’t regret doing right now from sheer pressure. We do need a strong leader, but I think there are five of us, and together we would be a strong figure if we really need something between now and August. We rely on Administration to give us the information and if there needs to be another meeting, I’m sure all of us would be willing.”

Boutestein said she felt now was not the time to appoint a mayor because emotions among councillors were running so high.

Councillor David Pattison also supported Boutestein’s motion to defer the matter until the next meeting.

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  1. Rather a disappointing outcome from this meeting. When confronted with the immediate question of which of the five current Councillors should be appointed Mayor, our Town Council opted for “None Of The Above”. An odd decision with an election weeks away, especially since the people of Morinville have expressed their confidence in each of these Councillors by electing them.

    On the other hand, Council has in a roundabout way expressed confidence in the Deputy Mayor and her handling of issues from now until at least August 27. But if this is Council’s view it would have been a sign of leadership and the ability to make a decision to formalize the situation.

    Ah, well, I’m sure there are a variety of issues at play that I’m not aware of. And in the Fall, the matter will be resolved for a term. But I hope each of our Councillors understand they have been endorsed by the people of Morinville and no matter what decision they make on any issue, they will face both criticism and praise from differing parts of our community.

  2. Well said Don…

    I too attended the meeting and was more than a little surprised at the outcome. For my money, none of our Councillors demonstrated a whole lot of leadership in this matter and I am reminded of an old Army adage which goes something like this: “Lead, follow or get the hell out of the way”. I’m still trying to figure out just WHY Council voted the way they did.

    Very disturbing too was an initial motion to handle this “in-camera”, particularly when nobody seemed to be able to pinpoint an appropriate clause within the Freedom of Information and Privacy Act (FOIP) under which this issue might fall.

    Anyway, October isn’t that far away…

  3. Usually, some discussion takes place before a meeting is called, to be sure there is a willingness to move ahead on an issue, so as not to call a meeting, only to find out that there is not a willingness.

    So, We call a meeting to deal with the vacant mayors chair, and then decide to do nothing???

    I think our ship has no rudder!!!

  4. Like the other commenters here I cannot believe the council came to no decision on naming a Mayor. I understand completely the trying times the council is going through losing a dear friend and colleague.

    Leadership is not just about running a smart campaign, getting elected and showing up at meetings (prepared or otherwise but that is an entirely different discussion), throwing candy at the children, er I mean TO the children, and only showing up at community events when an election is upon us. Leadership is also about making tough decisions in trying times. Popular or not.

    So let me try to help the council out. The first decision to be made was … should we or should we not appoint a Mayor before the next election? Yes or no. If the answer is no then you go as is for the next three months and the discussion is over. Meeting adjourned.

    Even if the MGA requires you to appoint a Mayor you could decide to not appoint one. What is the Province going to do? Disband the council and put an administrator in place? I assure you Premier Redford, Minister Griffiths and the Provincial Government have way bigger things to worry about than a community of 9,000 going without a Mayor for a few months given the circumstances.

    If the answer is yes, you simply hold a vote and viola…A new Mayor is in place. Exactly how you replaced me last November.

    I also understand the political sensitivity around making this decision so close to an election. So once again I will try to chart a course for the council.

    First any councillor that has declared they are going to run for the Mayors chair should not be named Mayor. So that would eliminate Councillor Holmes from consideration. I have also heard rumblings that Councillors Pattison and Fingler are considering a run for the Mayors seat as well so they would be eliminated for consideration. Councillor Boutenstein is on vacation in the US for the summer so that doesn’t work either.

    So that leaves us with Councillor Boddez. I understand that Councillor Boddez has indicated that he is not going to run again due to business commitments. Perfect. No political agenda over the next few months other than looking out what is in the best interests of our community. So there you have it. In 15 minutes the first decision could have been made and following a logical process a new Mayor named. Meeting adjourned !

    Now I know that Gord is away on business and travels a lot but for three of the quieter months, summer and election he could easily be in contact with the council and CAO. Gord loves his phone !

    Every councillor is provided with an electronic device, lap top, tablet, whatever and $500 to purchase a phone of choice. I don’t recall one thing ( there must have been one but I can’t think of it right now) where I had to drop everything I was doing to gather the council to make a decision. I always had a few hours to complete what I was doing before calling in. To further make the “in touch” point, I am currently in the middle of nowhere Saskatchewan writing this commentary. (Sorry its so long Steve)

    So instead of making a decision, the council decides that the answer is yes … but not now. Good grief !! Not a very strong showing from any of them. Particularly poor by those who would let their name stand for Mayor.

  5. Thanks for the advice, Lloyd! I hope it is well received. Even from a distance you provide more leadership than current Council.

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