Not quite two weeks before the 2017 municipal election, the council hopefuls of Division 1 took their last opportunity to speak with the ratepayers en masse at a candidates forum on Oct. 4.
Each of the four candidates too a few minutes to tell the crowd a bit about themselves and why they are running for public office before the question period began.
Candidate Deanne Bye has lived and farmed in the area for almost 20 years. She has a background as an insurance broker and previous board related experience. “Through my experiences on the boards I’ve learned you must come together.”
“Both business and boards have taught me to be an avid listener and a strong negotiator,” she added.
Bye knows infrastructure is an important issue within the county and wants further transparency and public engagement from council.
Incumbent Pearl Hay was born and raised on what is now a Century Farm in the County of Wetaskiwin. She is seeking re-election for a second term on council.
“Over the past four years on county council we have accomplished a lot,” said Hay, referring to the agricultural service board, a new county pool, ice and water rescue and blue algae elimination practices.
Hay says the county’s biggest issue is roads, as larger equipment and aging infrastructure come together to create issues.
Candidate Bill Krahn grew up farming in northern Alberta and moved to the County of Wetaskiwin in the mid 1980s. He has worked in a variety of industries including feedlots, farming, oilfield, and business. “I was asked by a couple people if I’d run for councillor for Division 1.”
Krahn says with an interest in politics he feels now was the time to put his name forward.
As a councillor candidate he believes some of the top priorities are listening, relaying concerns to council or county departments and road maintenance, student safety near the Gwynne slide, and the protection of farmland.
Candidate Lynn Ware grew up in Wyoming near the Oregon Trail, which is where her love of history stems from.
Ware sits on the board for Wetaskiwin Regional Public School and is also seeking re-election as a trustee. Ware says in 1995 the city and rural school boards amalgamated, but prior to that the rural schools were county run and councillors acted in the role of trustees.
“I have an active and inquisitive mind. I don’t ever want to be stagnant and I love a challenge,” said Ware.
The candidates first question was how could they see the county working more with the City of Wetaskiwin to promote businesses in the county.
Hay says at the present time both municipalities are part of the Joint Economic Development Initiative (JEDI). But earlier this year Wetaskiwin city council made the decision to terminate its involvement in JEDI, which comes into effect Dec. 31. 2017.
“We have to find a way we can work together,” said Hay.
Bye says the county should look to work with the Wetaskiwin Regoinal Chamber of Commerce to promote county businesses.
“I would support promoting businesses in the rural area,” said Bye.
Krahn says the people within the county and city must work together as a team to generate more taxes for both municipalities.
“I’m all for trying to make the City of Wetaskiwin and the county work together,” said Krahn.
Ware feels in order for the two municipalities to work together to promote rural business there needs to be a better communication relationship.
“A lot of our agricultural land is not zoned for business,” said Ware.
Candidates were questioned on how they felt the county can work with law enforcement to address and reduce property crime.
Hay says each county resident must remain vigilant and report if they see any suspicious activity, as the feasibility of law enforcement is an ongoing issue.
Krahn also believes it is up to the community members and individuals to remain vigilant, along with the support from organizations such as Rural Crime Watch.
Ware says the county’s budget plays a big part, and if residents are not going to watch out for each other the money will have to be found in the budget.
One question asked to candidates was, what kind of time commitment they have put into familiarizing themselves with county conduct by attending different meetings as candidates/members of the public.
Krahn says he has attended between five and seven general council meetings. Ware says she has attended approximately 10 general council meetings. Hay says since the beginning of the year she has attended 36 council meetings in her role as the Division 1 councillor. Bye told the crowd she has attended three or four general council meetings.
Candidates were also asked to relay, aside from roads, what they believed some of the county’s other big issues are.
“I would have to go to bridges,” said Hay. She added finding funding without raising taxes is a challenge.
Ware feels the RV land use bylaw and the protection of ag land are two main issues.
Bye agree with bridges, as well as business promotion. “There’s little talk of promoting business in the rural community.”
Along with roads, Krahn says bridges is a major county issue.
The county candidates were also questioned on their position of development noise issues.
“If we want to maintain our roads and bridges we’d better put up with some road construction. It’s not going to go on forever,” said Krahn.
Bye says as a councillor she would listen to both sides of the story and council would weigh the pros and cons. “I think as a councillor you have to be an intermediary.
Ware feels a compromise could be made and construction development could be done during daytime business hours.
“I hate to see noise, but we have to have noise to see progress,” said Hay.
On Oct. 16, for Division 1, voting stations will be set up at Malmo Mission Covenant Church, the Angus Ridge Community Hall, and the County of Wetaskiwin administration building.