Red Deer City council one of the best yet

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It’s been really great to watch the dynamic between City councillors since the election this past October.

I have been reporting on City council issues and have attended the meetings regularly for more than seven years and this past fall was the third election I covered since I have been working at the Express.

I have to say that I believe this council by far is the strongest that we have had.

The councillors are dynamic and not afraid to speak their minds while still being respectful to one another.

Each councillor also brings a different background to the table – some in the background of business, law and policing, among others — making them a well-rounded group and you can definitely see that in the issues they raise and in the discussions that take place.

As City council worked through the 2011 operating budget earlier this month, my last statement couldn’t ring more true.

The newcomers to council, Councillors Dianne Wyntjes, Paul Harris and Chris Stephan were thrown into their first budget literally right after the fall election.

I have to say I was impressed with them and how they fared during this rigorous process. They really didn’t seem to miss a beat.

Budget time is a daunting task, even for the veteran councillors. They spend hours upon hours preparing for debate. For the new councillors the learning curve is huge.

After elections in the past, the newbies have mostly sat back, observed and have had little to say, which is fine because honestly it is quite an intimidating document to work through.

However, this wasn’t the case this year and it was really nice to see Wyntjes, Harris and Stephan jump in without hesitation, even bringing up additional funding requests and new ideas for cost savings for council to consider.

Our City councillors really do work hard and are often not thanked or praised for it.

In the past seven years I can attest to the fact that City council as a whole is much busier than they used to be.

Between regular council meetings, workshops, committee meetings and public events, the councillors are constantly going full steam ahead. Some of them even juggle daytime jobs.

I really believe it is time for council to go full-time.

We are a City of almost 100,000 people. A City our size really does need a full-time council.

It would be a benefit to the citizens of Red Deer. I think if the councillor’s position was offered as full-time, we would see an increase in candidates. Presuming the salary would be higher, more people would be attracted to the job. Because of these reasons I think the calibre of candidates would also be raised which in turn is a benefit in itself.

Of course this also brings up another issue – a ward system and whether or not the City should move towards this.

I don’t believe so at this point.

All of the councillors are incredibly accessible. They all have the community as a whole in mind when making decisions for our fine City.

When a ward system is put into place, sometimes councillors can get caught up in their own ward and stop focusing on the entire community. I believe this is a detriment. But it really depends on how you look at it.

But back to our current councillors. I think Red Deerians elected the right candidates for council because they aren’t the type to sit back and watch things happen.

They are all very involved and realize that citizens elected them to be their voice. These councillors aren’t afraid of speaking up for the benefit of residents.

This Red Deer council is very forward-thinking and I think citizens will be pleased with what they accomplish in the upcoming years if council keeps up with this pace.

efawcett@reddeerexpress.com

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