Commentary – Work with local elected officials

Richard Froese

Now that the new municipal councils and school boards have been elected and sworn in for a four-year term, it’s time to move forward.

Councils and boards can accomplish many positive things by working together with residents and their neighbouring municipalities and Indigenous communities.

Everyone wants a local government that is open and honest and keeps all its partners up-to-date about the issues and decisions.

Many good and valid issues and ideas were presented by all the candidates during the campaign.

I trust the new councils and boards will consider each idea from all the candidates, including those who weren’t elected.

Some local governments have been known to conduct much of their business behind closed doors, sometimes contravening the provincial Municipal Act or the School Act. Remain transparent and open in the decisions and discussions about the issues. Residents want their local governments to make decisions and spend money in the best interest and best investment for the community.

To the councils and boards, do what’s best to develop and sustain the community and services into the future.

Remember, you were elected to represent the community and to find ways to reduce costs and taxes while providing essential services.

Councils and boards may consider ways to engage their partners, not enrage them, with regular opportunities for the community to provide ideas or respond to significant proposals or issues, without stalling the process too much time.

As the new governing teams embark on a new term, it is a good time to consider the priorities of the term and the long-term future of their jurisdiction.

Some have a retreat in the first few months of the term for a day or two for the new team and top staff to get to share visions and set direction. It is a good way for new members to gain confidence, learn their roles and responsibilities and the incumbents can become valuable mentors.

As part of the process, be sure to present the proposed goals to the community and allow residents to respond.

A community meeting would also provide valuable and healthy discussion.

Don’t just rely on the impersonal social media. Engage people by keeping in personal contact and gather together. That would be a good start to the new term as all partners commit to working together towards positive results.

Councils and school boards may also consider an annual forum to update residents on issues and projects. Perhaps hold an annual event to share ideas.

I know growing up in B.C. in the 1970s to 1990s, municipal councils occasionally hosted what were called annual stewardship meetings. Why wait only until election time for citizens to ask questions and express concerns in a public forum?

Some rural municipalities like Big Lakes County host annual ratepayer meetings in July in two hamlets to accommodate residents throughout the county. They usually feature a barbecue supper and information and displays about the county services and the various service departments.

Residents and county council and staff also have opportunity to discuss issues and concerns in a more informal and relaxed setting.

Even if your candidate didn’t get elected, it’s still essential to work together, not against.

The last thing any council or board needs is dissention among the ranks.

United we stand, divided we fall.

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