Tuesday, May 30, 2017

My Last Post as Mayor of Town of Killam

As you no doubt have figured out by reading the title of this post, I will not be seeking re-election to Killam town council this fall.  Barring some significant event – political or otherwise – that I feel the need to comment on, this will be my last post on this blog.

By election time in October, I will have served 16 years as a member of Council – 5 years as Councillor, 1 year as Acting Mayor, and 10 years as Mayor - 5 terms in all.  Many would say I have stayed too long and they may well be correct!

There are many to thank, and this is my last opportunity, so here goes.

Firstly, thank you to the citizens of the Town of Killam who have allowed me to represent them and have given me this amazing experience.

Thank you to all my council colleagues, past & present.  Many of you I have agreed with on various issues; some I have agreed with on almost no issue.  However, I have always tried to understand & respect your point of view and always knew you had the best interests of our community at heart.  
Thank you as well to all council members who have come before me.  Each councillor stands on the shoulders of his/her predecessors, and we are lucky in Killam to have had a solid foundation on which to build.  Killam has been very fortunate to have had stable, functional government over the years – not every municipality in Alberta can say that. 

Thank you to our Administration.  This group of people does an amazing job for our residents every day, and I can’t thank them enough.  Thank you especially to Chief Administrative Officer Kim Borgel; it is not easy for the CAO to deal with seven elected representatives and their various points of view.  Kim does a great job and has assembled a team that delivers good value to our residents.   

Thank you to all the Council members in our Flagstaff regional community.  Working with our neighbours is a big part of this job and I have met & worked with many good people over the years.  I will miss working with most of you!

While many events & meeting occur in the evening, Mayor’s tasks often happen during the day.  This has taken me away from work on many occasions, and I want to thank my work colleagues and business partners – they have often been called upon to take on work I was unable to do because of my municipal commitments.

Finally (and most importantly) I want to thank my family and especially my wife, Tammy.  This commitment has meant countless hours away from family life, interruptions at meal time, angry calls to the house (sometimes followed by an angry husband in the house), overnight absences, etc.etc.  I simply could not have done this without their, and her, support.

So have my council colleagues & I been able to make a difference over the past several years?  That is up to you to decide.  I do, however, like to think that we have laid the groundwork over those years for Killam to succeed as a community.

The job of Council is to define the long range goals of the municipality, set a budget that can accomplish those goals, and then get out of the way so Administration can get to work.  If you are not looking 20 years down the road you are not doing your job.  A good analogy is that Council steers the boat and Administration rows the boat.

The councils I have worked with have spent considerable time developing and updating various planning documents and policies – in other words doing their job.  I salute them for that, for it is very easy – and tempting at times – for a Councillor to cross that line into Administration territory.  That almost always results in a wreck, and can’t be allowed to happen.  Have we occasionally hit the ditch?  Of course, but I do believe we have got it right more times than not.

At the risk of influencing the Agenda for our new council, here are my thoughts on issues that continue to need our attention going forward – all relating to our long term sustainability.

The communities of Flagstaff are in the midst of a discussion on the possibility of regional governance and more specifically regional government.  The landscape has changed for municipal government and status quo is no longer an option.  Some had thought we may be electing a regional Council in October, but this will not be the case.  This discussion is not completed and new councils will be asked to pick this up in the new term.  I have said from the start that we owe our residents this discussion – we need to explore different ways for our regional community to work together, and this is obviously one way.  You will have opportunity to examine this proposal and give your feedback, and the conversation needs to continue.

Economic development will continue to become more important.  The trend of declining population and migration of citizens away from rural communities into urban communities is a big challenge.  While some of you have told us you are willing to pay more in property taxes in order to retain services, for many of us this is simply not an option, and we all know we will eventually hit the ceiling on this.  A new grocery store or barber shop for your community is not economic development – it merely supports the economy.  We need to think much bigger here – we need to think manufacturing things and creating things, and the “If you build it they will come” philosophy on its own doesn’t work.  By the way, the regional governance proposal noted above suggests a better chance of dealing with this issue as a region.

Finally, I believe we really need to take a critical look at ourselves.  Today’s family will not come to our community solely because of employment.  First of all, many jobs can be done from anywhere you can get a cell signal and reasonable internet.  But even if your job brings you to Flagstaff region, the real consideration for most employees is what you and your family can experience after work.  It is parks & playgrounds, and a variety of recreation.  But it’s also cultural events & experiences, friendly neighbourhoods, and welcoming & inclusive communities.  In particular, inclusivity is a challenge in our community, and I sincerely regret that I was not able, as a community leader, to have a more positive influence.  I pledge to continue to advocate for this as a citizen.

I wish every success to our new council.  I know you will find your time as an elected official to be rewarding.  Your learning curve will be steep and you will need to grow a thick skin!  You will also get to work with great people and help shape the future of our community.   If you can see the broader picture and understand other people’s point of view you will do great.

Best Regards,

Bud James