Nearly one month after the municipal election, newly-elected Mayor Tara Veer is settling into her new role.
“It’s still surreal and I’m still just so grateful to be in this position and it’s a new challenge. But it doesn’t feel foreign to me,” she said, during a recent chat in the mayor’s office at City Hall. “I’ve really jumped in with two feet and have to the best of my ability embraced every opportunity that has come my way.
“I still wake up every single morning in absolute gratitude to Red Deerians for giving me this opportunity to serve them.”
Veer’s love of politics was sparked at a young age and her family has been involved in politics for a long time as well.
“My grandfather on my mom’s side and I have uncles on both sides of the family that have been mayors in different towns,” she said. “I have a lifelong love of politics and I think that has been instilled in me because my family has always paid attention to public matters. It’s in my DNA.”
Veer was first elected to council in 2004 at the age of 26, now at the age of 35, she is the City’s youngest mayor ever.
“I think it poses opportunities. Age has never been an issue for me. I understand for some members of the public that they might look at my age with some skepticism and so for those people I recognize I will need to win them over through my work ethic and my work in the community,” she said. “But I think generally speaking I feel as though I have a mandate from the public.”
As for the City’s new council, Veer said she sees them as a strong team.
“This council has really hit the ground running and I’m really pleased we have a four-year mandate. It takes time for council to get to know each other and to navigate through the initial orientation,” she said. “In the previous three-year term you would spend six months to a year trying to navigate the new world, your second year was a very productive year in terms of making a difference on the public agenda, and by the third year you could sense that people were gearing up for an election campaign so sometimes that shifts the manner in which we make decisions.”
She added the new four-year term is in the best interest of the public.
“I think it exponentially grows the productive period that we’ll see from a council and it gives us an opportunity to make a substantial difference on a few key issues from start to finish that the public will ultimately measure us against in upcoming elections.”
As far as council as a whole, Veer said members are taking time to get to know one another and to figure out where everyone fits on the team.
“We’ve been working on connecting personally and talking about what we heard during the campaign and where we are at individually. We are talking about what some of the priorities we have as individual councillors are and then putting that together and figuring out where we go collectively from here,” she said.
“One of the challenges we are faced with is we campaign and are elected as individuals based on different campaign commitments and often competing philosophies and yet we find ourselves at the same table and need to be able to move the community forward and so we need to stay true to those commitments and honour those commitments to our public as individuals, but we need to do it within that collective will of council as a whole.”
In terms of the incumbents who were re-elected last month including Councillors Buck Buchanan, Paul Harris, Lynne Mulder, Dianne Wyntjes and Frank Wong, Veer said although they have all sat at the table for many years and have all gained experience they are learning to work together again with the new council members.
“Incumbents are new within a new council and a new team in terms of how we will fit in and what roles we’ll play. So even though there are incumbents, in many respects it is a new day.”
As for the new councillors including Lawrence Lee, Ken Johnston and Tanya Handley, Veer said they are all settling in well.
“We had our first meeting and I was very proud of our community for putting them there (on council).
“Red Deer’s in for a great four years.”