After more than two decades served as a city councillor, and another seven years at the helm as mayor, City of Wetaskiwin mayor Bill Elliot is stepping down this fall.
Elliot announced on April 20, 2017 that he would not be seeking re-election come the October municipal election.
“I was 21 years as a councillor … I started in 1986,” said Elliot.
In that lengthy span Elliot withdrew from politics for one term (three years) while serving as the principal of Centennial School in Wetaskiwin, from which he retired in 2004.
“I was a teacher for 32 years, including nine years as principal,” said Elliot.
When it comes to not throwing his name back in the ring to campaign for another term as the city’s mayor, Elliot says it is time to get new people involved in the city’s politics. “I just think it’s time for younger blood to be at the helm.”
Elliot states many communities, including Red Deer, Edmonton and Calgary, have, in the last years, seen younger mayors elected.
The mayors for the Town of Beaumont, Leduc County and the City of Leduc are also not seeking re-election this year. Elliot says in a recent lunch between the four mayors it was mentioned there is 115 years of experience between them.
“There’s a new demographic voting and I think there’s an interest in younger people to be motivated and interested in politics,” said Elliot.
Elliot first decided to run for council when he realized he was not able to make the changes he wanted to see simply as the 14-year veteran chair of the recreation board. “I couldn’t seem to get things through council as the rec board (chair).”
The election and first term sitting on council was interesting experience for the newly minted city councillor. “It was different. You learn how the wheels of bureaucracy turn.”
“When you first start off you’re a rookie and you have to establish credibility with the rest of council. That’s how you grow,” he added.
After 21 years as a councillor Elliot had served under four mayors.
When asked if he would consider running for mayor Elliot originally was not in favour of the idea, as he did not want to run against the current mayor of the time, out of respect and friendship.
“It was a friend who convinced me I should run for mayor,” said Elliot. He explained he wanted to see council moving things in a more positive direction.
Elliot says it was always been a mandate of his to help build a community its residents can be proud of.
During his time as a councillor and mayor Elliot says he has learned it is important to keep engaged with the community and stay in tune with what people want.
“In the past few years council has become much more open with the community. We’ve certainly become more transparent,” said Elliot.
Elliot says one of the biggest challenges he and council face is explaining to people in an understandable way why council makes the decisions it does. He says this can be made even tougher when misinformation and rumours take root.
“I’ve always invited people to call me or talk to me if they have a concern,” said Elliot.
He adds, another challenge over the years has been funding.
But in 28 years with the city there’s also been many favourite moments.
As a Phys. Ed. Graduate, Elliot says he feels getting By-The-Lake-Park was a great recreational achievement for Wetaskiwin.
“Just being out and meeting with people I find a really pleasant thing to do,” said Elliot.
“And I can say without hesitation I’ve been on council with many fine people,” he added.
For Elliot, another pleasure of serving as councillor and mayor has been working with the city’s staff. “They just go above and beyond to make sure things happen well in the City of Wetaskiwin. We just have a really good crew and they’re always trying to look at ways to do things better.”
When it comes to a newly elected mayor, Elliot has some simple advice to share, “Listen and lead with your heart.”
“You have to do what’s best for the most people … and do it with compassion and understanding. And when I say understanding I mean understanding of all cultures and opinions,” he added.
Having a supportive and understanding family is also important, says Elliot. “We’ve missed birthday parties and Christmas concerts because we’ve had other commitments to the city.”