Morinville –Former councillor Barry Turner is looking to return to the table for another term on Council six years after completing his last. Turner, 39, was first elected to Council at the age of 21 and served for four terms between 1995 and 2007. Turner decided to step away after four terms to spend time with his young family and to apply a little more attention to his professional career.
“I had put a lot of time and effort and had went full bore in terms of putting everything I could into fulfilling my Council duties,” Turner said of his initial run on Council, adding he and his wife had their third child during his third term on Council.
The candidate’s children are now six years older, and he has been with the University Hospital Foundation for the past two years as the foundation’s senior database administrator. He manages a team of gift processors, keeping receipts and thank you letters flowing, as well as keeping the donor database accurate and up to date. With family and career on track, Turner now feels he is able to return to devoting his attention to community through a seat on Council.
The candidate will be focusing his campaign on three things: people, potential and progress. It is a combination that capitalizes on what Turner sees as Morinville’s greatest asset – its people. Turner believes the recipe is the same whether it is ratepayer, resident or Town staff. “By focusing on the people and realizing the potential, progress comes quite naturally,” he said. “Then it’s rinse and repeat.”
Turner said the community’s focus should be producing value for people, particularly value for the ratepayer. “I think that’s where Council should focus a lot of its investments,” he said. “In the last number of years we’ve seen an awesome group of people really step forward and create a bunch of initiatives in terms of the St. Jean Baptiste Festival, Canada Day, the Festivals Committee – a lot of great initiatives. I think that value can be realized in terms of providing those groups and those individuals with the tools that they need to really maximize and realize the potential that the community really has.”
Shared goals and vision
The candidate sees community progress happening when the community and Council are in sync. “I think a big part of being a leader on Council and in the community is making the goals of the community the goals of Council,” Turner said. “By listening to those people and providing them with the tools to leverage the resources that Council has and the community has to create added value. When you are talking about volunteers and volunteer groups and organizations; they have an amazing way of turning a thousand dollars into two thousand dollars, even ten thousand dollars, largely by the sweat on their brow and the investment of time. That’s one of the few areas where Council can put resources in that multiply.”
He also sees other opportunities for Council to make things multiply. While he feels Council does not often have opportunity to determine specific business types that open in the community, they do have opportunity to maximize the impact of the businesses already here and those that will locate here. Turner is a believer in the multiplier effect, a theory that suggests each dollar spent locally multiplies a number of times, growing the local economy in the process.
“The multiplier will change depending on who you talk to, but it is definitely the case that money spent in the community goes to pay wages, goes to buy supplies from a local supplier, and the benefit to the community multiplies,” he said. “Where the Town can benefit is increasing the local market. I think there is an opportunity to work with the Chamber of Commerce on a shop local campaign or initiative that might have a meaningful impact.”
Other issues at hand
Turner is aware of some of the issues that will come forward as the campaign progresses, including taxes, planning and development, and responding to community needs.
The candidate said taxes are a common concern to residents and something that has to be looked at in the context of the region. “When you take a look at the region and other communities, you’ve got to take that regional marketplace into account, and by keeping that focus on value for people, you can take a hard look at that budget and focus on those things that bring the most value,” Turner said, adding such a look would include realizing ways of producing more value with the same dollars to hold the line on taxes. “Take the leadership in terms of making sure administration is doing everything they can to realize efficiencies, and look at the taxes as one of the last resorts.”
Turner said Morinville was paying close to $1 million per year in debt servicing when he was initially elected to Council, monies he recalls as being for work done on Morinville’s waterline. By the time Turner left Council in 2007 that debt had be reduced by two thirds. “I have a history of taking a responsible fiscal approach,” he said.
Morinville’s rate-based model for water and sewer was also brought in while Turner was at the Council table. “Looking on it in hindsight I think the rates in Morinville are pretty high, relatively speaking,” Turner said. “One of the weaknesses of the rate-based model I think that I’ve seen is that it focuses on future costs quite a bit. If there is a goal that you need to twin the line 50 years down the line, those projected costs have an impact right away. I think there could be a benefit in taking a look at that model and responsibly using debt to fund the utility at a more reasonable cost to the ratepayer.”
Skills on the table
Turner said his style of leadership is through facilitation, a skill he would bring to Council if elected Oct. 21. “I don’t necessarily believe as a community leader you need to have all the answers,” he said. “I don’t think all the answers you come up with are necessarily the right ones just because you are in that position. I really believe a true community leader needs to make the community’s goals his goals. I think leadership involves more listening than it does talking.”
Turner said he has become a supporter of some new, collaborative methods of holding meetings, one where agendas are set as a group. “The participants set the priorities,” he said. “I ultimately believe that in order to arrive at the right answers for the community you need to go beyond the Council table and meaningfully and regularly involve the community in setting priorities. It should be the community’s priorities that Council champions and not Council trying to enforce its priorities on the community.”