It is officially election time in the town of Canmore and nine candidates have thrown their hats into the ring to run for two vacant councillor positions in the upcoming June 19 byelection.
The candidates are Jason Best, Karen Greene, Brian Hyland, Shirley Ketterer, Sean Krausert, James Louden, Vi Sandford, Rob Seeley and Victor Zablotni.
Three candidates are also vying for the mayor’s seat – John Borrowman, Ed Russel and Pam Hilstad – Outlook coverage of the mayors will be in the May 31 issue.
Best is an accountant and business consultant who has lived in Canmore for the past 12 years and made one previous run at a council seat.
He said he is running because he feels the current council is dysfunctional and municipal budgets are out of control.
“It is obviously an expensive place to live and to govern, however, our civic leaders have not been managing our debt, property taxes and user fee levels effectively,” Best said.
Another area he feels needs to be handled better by council is providing strategic direction to administration through the chief administrative officer without overly interfering in day-to-day operations.
“In my experience as a business consultant and coach, it is my opinion that when you hire qualified staff you must have a clearly defined job description then provide direction, not interference,” he said. “It is council’s job to lead and not to direct.”
The next priority for council is choosing a CAO that communicates its visions clearly to staff, the community and inter-municipal partners, Best added.
Greene said she feels it is time she is more involved in the community and from a personal point of view she is at a stage in her life where being a councillor would work with her family and work commitments.
“There comes a point where, if you want to be involved, you have to get in,” she said. “I have been thinking about it for some time and now is the right time. I have always been really interested in the process and how decisions are made.
“I think I can help the Town make good decisions to move forward.”
A mortgage specialist with BMO, she has been a permanent resident of Canmore for 20 years and has wide-ranging volunteer and community experience.
Greene has spent four years with Canmore Community Housing Corporation, currently co-chairs the Rocky Mountain Highland Dance Society, is on the Rotary executive and will be president in 2014, and has sat on the preschool board and the Mountain Cabin Quilters Guild.
She grew up visiting Canmore with her parents in the ’70s and they bought a second home in 1979 and has also owned a local small home-based business in addition to working for the bank for 19 years.
A particular issue Greene said she feels needs to be handled correctly by council is the repurposing of municipal facilities once the Multiplex, or Elevation Place, opens in fall.
“We need to make sure we are doing that in the right way,” Greene said, adding she wants to get the most out of the vacated facilities in a way that is financially feasible. “We need to make sure we are addressing the needs of the community that works within that town budget and is sustainable for the future.”
Having served on CCHC, she also brings intimate knowledge of housing issues to the table and especially perpetually affordable housing and senior’s housing.
“The gap of aging-in-place housing in Canmore needs to be addressed and the sooner the better,” she said.
Hyland was unavailable for comment about his election campaign by Outlook press deadlines.
Ketterer has spent 20 years doing the municipal census and she said that, being the type of person that assesses and evaluates by numbers, she has always been interested in how decisions are made locally.
As a result, Ketterer said she brings a perspective and a process to evaluate the decisions politicians are asked to make to council.
“From a process point of view, everything can be quantified,” she said, adding as a social accountant she measures environmental, social and economic impacts. “I want to bring some new tools to help make decisions.
“It has always puzzled me, as a census person, when I know how the town is made up, some of the decisions the Town has made. My process would query census database to see if decisions are warranted by the numbers.”
For example, when it comes to the issue of housing in the community, the question facing council in the future will be how many more social housing projects should be built.
She pointed out several cities across Canada are participating in the Quality of Life process and according to that template a municipality should have 12.7 per cent of their stock as social housing.
The census can gauge current overall housing stock, including non-permanent homes and, by knowing that desired percentage, Ketterer said, Canmore can target the need base for social housing.
Waiting lists, vacancies and other data in the census would have to be incorporated, she said, as well as decisions made on how social housing is defined.
“That is the process I would like to bring to council,” she said.
Having lived in Canmore 23 years, Ketterer has also spent the last six as chief administrative officer of the Chiniki First Nation.
She said that background gives her knowledge of how an administration works and what place governance plays in the budget process.
She has also had many years experience on various committees like the police committee and Family and Community Support Services.
Krausert reiterated his campaign theme of Building Community for Everyone and asking voters what type of community they want to have.
“I embrace a Canmore for everyone,” he states on his website. “One in which families thrive, and their children find opportunities. One in which seniors can afford to stay upon retirement. One in which no one falls between the cracks. A Canmore which is prosperous, economically diversified and environmentally responsible.”
Krausert said the strength of his candidacy is his professional experience and education. Formally trained as a lawyer, he has also worked at an executive level in real estate development in Canmore and managed in the private and non-profit.
“While having managed multimillion-dollar budgets, I have a rich experience in the realms of the arts and social justice,” he said.
He added he believes council must focus on long-term economic, social and environmental sustainability, including economic diversification, affordable housing and youth programming.
“In reinforcing community, and being especially vigilant with respect to the needs of our most vulnerable, I will work towards dignity for all,” he said.
Louden was unavailable for comment about his election campaign by Outlook press deadlines. However, he ran in the previous municipal election in 2010 and has a background as a social activist.
Louden managed Wapiti Tents municipal campground for eight years until it was handed over to a private contractor in 2009.
Since then he has lobbied politicians and administration for answers about how that decision was made and in the last election spoke directly about affordable housing issues in Canmore as it is something he has had a challenge finding.
Sandford said if elected to council she will resign as trustee from the Canadian Rockies Public Schools Board.
“I have served in public office for 4 1/2 years and feel that now is a great time to work towards becoming an elected councillor with the Town of Canmore,” she said. “Although it is possible under the School Act, and Local Authorities Election Act, to serve both school board and municipal government, if elected to Town council I have decided I will resign my school board position within 30 days of the election.”
Because the school board’s functions match the school year, it would wrap up its duties for 2011-2012 at the end of June and if Sandford is elected to council it would resume in fall with one less trustee.
She said it is her experience on that public body that has made her aware of the balance required for holding public office.
“I have participated in many community engagement projects, the most recent being designing a school calendar for the next three school years for over 2,000 children and their families,” she said. “This calendar process involved extensive community consultation and prioritizing a myriad of variables, but at the heart of the matter, we never lost sight of the purpose: to create a calendar that put the students and their learning first.”
Hiring a new CAO for the municipality is something council will have to address with its new members. Sandford, as a trustee, recently was part of hiring a new CAO for the school district and she said she is familiar with current CAO hiring practices and procedures including contract negotiation.
Seeley celebrated his birthday on nomination day, which was exciting for him.
He moved to Canmore with his wife in 1991 and has had significant community involvement and volunteered for numerous events and organizations.
“I have been here for a long time, I am passionate about the community and I want to make a difference,” he said. “Council would give me an opportunity to contribute in a meaningful way.”
He said in particular he would like to see pedestrian issues addressed by council. That includes a proper sidewalk being developed along Bow Valley Trail and linkages in town with the Trans-Canada Trial.
One of his strengths, he said, is as a small business owner of the Telus Store and he also chaired the Small Business Association of Banff.
“Starting my own business in 1993 created all kinds of positive and personal community connections that have allowed me to contribute and participate in a meaningful way,” he said.
Seeley pointed to the issue of how commercial and residential tax rates are split in the community.
There have been concerns expressed by the business community that too much of that burden is falling to commercial properties over time.
“I am interested in taking a closer look at the commercial tax rates,” he said.
Zablotni said he is running for council because he loves where he lives and wants to maintain the uniqueness that makes up Canmore.
“Canmore is one of the most beautiful and desirable places in Canada to live, work and play,” he said. “In the last decade, we have seen unprecedented growth of the town, which is bound to continue because of the strong Alberta economy, retiring baby boomers and increasing tourism and recreation.”
Zablotni said he sees the job of councillor as being one to find ways to keep growing and promoting new businesses with minimal environmental impact.
With a background and passion for sports and recreation, he said in particular he would like to see additional opportunities for residents.
That includes focused public engagement in the discussion of the redevelopment of the existing Rec Centre.
“I believe it would benefit the community to include racquetball and squash courts in the project,” he said. “Also, I would like to see new biking and running trails, as well as lights on the existing tennis courts.”
Zablotni has been working in Canmore since 1995 and living here with his wife for 14 years.
He was finance and business manager for Canmore Chrysler for 15 years, a tax consultant for three years, physical education teacher, sport trainer and fitness club owner.
He said with his experience in finance, his mission is to provide taxpayers with the best possible services at affordable costs while at the same time being transparent, accountable and engaged with the community.