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.