Officially sworn in, the new City council is ready to hit the ground running.
The official swearing in ceremony took place Oct. 23rd at the City Hall Council Chambers, and Frieda McDougall, City clerk, gave a welcome to the many guests in attendance.
The new City council team includes Mayor Tara Veer, Buck Buchanan, Tanya Handley, Lawrence Lee, Dianne Wyntjes, Ken Johnston, Frank Wong and two new faces, Michael Dawe and Vesna Higham.
“It’s an incredible honour to be back as mayor and to commence a second mandate as mayor and to work with the new council. It was certainly a great campaign, a very respectful campaign. I spent a lot of time hearing the issues and concerns of Red Deerians,” said Veer.
With the new council officially sworn in, she said they can hit the ground running and commence about the business of the City, and that council has already had a couple of orientation sessions.
“We’ve grouped together and identified what we heard from our community over the past couple of months. We will be beginning our strategic direction very soon. Our strategic direction sets the areas of transformation for the community and then that will build our work plan in the coming year.”
She said it was very consistent throughout the campaign that everyone who ran had a desire to improve the quality of life in Red Deer.
“The people spoke and so this is our new team. We’re very proud to be a part of Red Deer’s history in the making and serve from 2017 to 2021, and to bring the issues and concerns of Red Deerians forward and just do what we can over the coming four years to make our Red Deer an even better place to live,” she said.
Johnston said it feels fantastic to be on council another term.
“It’s just a humbling honour to get the confidence of the community for another four years and I’m just excited to serve four more,” he said.
He said the public has shown a great sense of optimism for the City, and is looking at being a safer community, but at the same time, they’re looking at economic development, and the opportunities around the Riverlands project and the 2019 Canada Winter Games.
“I think if this council can deliver on both fronts on the safety side and the economic development side we’ll have a very, very successful four years,” said Johnston.
The first formal order of business coming up is the capital budget.
“Council will meet on the 30th of October to do its regular agenda, but the capital budget will follow shortly thereafter, so we’ll have a chance to be able to look at how much capital the administration is recommending we spend and where it’s being spent, and also looking at the capital plan that we put together last year, which carries forward for the next three years,” said Johnston.
Higham said she believes the single greatest issue to deal with as new council is crime and policing.
Although Higham has served on council before, she said she was nervous for the swearing in.
“What’s interesting is that I was way more nervous for this swearing in than I was the first time and I don’t know why that is. Perhaps it was a little more hard fought being in ninth spot for the first half of the results, so I really appreciate and feel so honoured and so grateful,” said Higham.
She said she now knows what to expect and knows what the job entails, and is ready to get to work.
She said when it comes to approaching the capital budget, there are a number of pressing and competing issues to consider.
“The top of the list that I can think of is the aquatic centre. We’re going to have to make a decision,” she said, adding that she supports having a 50 metre pool and aquatic centre of some type, but doesn’t support the current iteration of the plan in its entirety.
Dawe, who has been part of the community his whole life, said being on council will be a steep learning curve for him.
He said when talking to people on his campaign, the issue that first came to his attention was the issue of crime.
“I think as almost everyone has said when you were going door to door the thing you heard over and over again are the issues of crime. Everybody has a right to want to feel safe in their community and to have their property protected,” he said.
He said council should tackle what new and innovative things they can do to deal with the issue.
Another thing he heard is making sure people feel council is accountable and remember the things they promised in the election.
“Accountability and responsibility and keeping to our word is very important to people, and I take that very seriously.”