Time to step up and take action

In six months, Rimbey will have elected a mayor and councillors. What are you planning to do about it?

In six months, Rimbey will have elected a mayor and councillors. What are you planning to do about it?

Mayor Sheldon Ibbotson has stated he will seek re-election but that doesn’t mean he should be uncontested.

When people who talk about municipal politics gather to talk about what’s wrong with municipal politics, they toss out all kinds of names of people they would like to see on council, people who have threatened to run for council, and people who should be run off council.

It’s not as easy as it sounds to elect five people whose vision for the next four years jibes with yours. Get the phonebook out and try it. Typically the best young minds are busy carving out their niche in the business world, commuting to work because there aren’t enough good jobs in Rimbey. They’re trying to raise a family and are already knee-deep in their volunteer commitments to coaching hockey, passing the plate Sunday mornings or bringing juice and orange wedges to their kids’ soccer games. Municipal politics has become a middle manager’s or retired person’s game; they’re the ones who can meet the time commitment.

Finding county councillors is just as tough — cows don’t milk themselves on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month and the canola doesn’t harvest itself in the fall when councillors typically attend conventions and get started on their budgets.

For some, but not most, the stipend might be attractive. Mayor Ibbotson earned about $21,850 in 2012; the pay for councillors depends on how many committee meetings they attend, how many babies they kiss and how many ribbons they cut. Town councillors’ salaries and benefits ranged in 2012 from $17,000 to $19,400.

In Rimbey, a new broom and voter dissatisfaction swept out the old council in 2010. Joe Anglin then left to take a seat in the provincial legislature but continues to influence municipal politics by burning books and bridges. Maybe he’ll decide he’s already spending so much time deciding what’s best for the town he’ll quit as MLA and run for mayor. Maybe Dave Karroll will come out of the weeds and try to return to the council table.

Being a councillor is a frustrating job and it’s easy for someone who’s used to being the boss at home or at work to feel like a cog in a bureaucratic wheel that turns ever so slowly. Councillors who get elected on a platform of change and progress often find after one term that they have just perpetuated the status quo.

But if the community is to advance, it needs fresh ideas and the revitalization a new generation of leaders can provide.

Residents deserve local government that is willing to listen to their concerns and their suggestions. That’s a cornerstone of democracy. Municipal government has more direct influence on the everyday lives of citizens than either the provincial or federal government.

You expect a lot from your local government but are you prepared to put in a lot of time and effort over the next four years to improve the quality of life in your community? Nomination day for the fall election is Sept. 16. That gives you about five months to get up to speed on what town council or county council has been up to. You don’t have to understand mill rates, off-site levies, municipal development plans and debentures right away to be considered a good candidate for office.

Serving as a municipal councillor is often a thankless job, but really, somebody’s gotta do it.

— Off The Record