Running for municipal office requires a huge time commitment and private time with family and friends may be seriously reduced.
Donna Tona, senior corporate consultant and vice-president operations of Transitional Solutions Inc., laid these facts on the table at an information session held Sept. 4 at the Rimbey Community Centre.
Close to 40 people showed up for the session in which Tona talked about the pros and cons of being an elected official.
“If you are running for office because you have an agenda it’s not a good idea,” she said. “Remember, you are only one vote and you are bound by the rules of the MGA (Municipal Government Act).
Tona also stressed councillors may be at the helm of the community but they are not its rulers.
“You’re not ruling, folks. You are serving and you have to have the spirit of service.”
During her presentation, Tona touched briefly on the rules of closed door meetings.
“Land, legal and personnel is what you go in camera for. Otherwise, the business is to be discussed in public and if you’re worried about debating in public, don’t run. I hope you have lots of people in your council meetings.”
The relationship between the town manager and council is important, she said. “It needs to be a collaborative relationship, not adversarial.”
Budgeting needs to be addressed using the simple equation of dollars in/dollars out.
“If you are looking at providing a new service, you need to find a new dollar. And remember you are elected to govern the public purse, you are not the public purse. Raising mill rates and decimating reserves will doom you to failure.”
Reflecting on the democratic process and the freedom to vote, Tona noted everyone should have an opportunity to witness a voter who has recently become a Canadian citizen.
“I hope you get that opportunity,” she said. “They even dress up for the occasion. I have seen them come in three-piece suits. They are so proud. It is exciting to see and reminds you that this is what our ancestors fought and died for. It renews your faith in the democratic process.”
Jim Moore, a member of the Rimbey Ratepayers Association, believes the meeting was beneficial.
“Anyone who wants to run should have gone to it,” he said. “The main message I got out of it was that if you are on council you need to remember you are there to serve the town and there are procedures that need to be followed. You are only one vote on council and you’re not going to change the world.”
Karen Conover, co-owner of Best Western Rimstone Ridge Hotel, who is undecided about running for council, also attended the meeting.
“I just wanted to learn more, just to see. It’s something I might be interested in.”
Conover, whose educational background is in political science, finds the political field interesting.
She came away from the meeting with a new appreciation for the time commitment required for councillors.
“I think it would be an interesting amazing challenge, but it’s certainly more than just attending the meetings. And it’s based on service first. That really hit home for me.”