How does Council work? What do I do if I have questions and concerns? What are my expectations and responsibilities?
Those of us who have been newly elected have had a number of workshops since the election to have the first question answered. The first workshop was with a lawyer who was very clear about what we can and can't do. He pointed out that we each get one vote and that individually we can do nothing. Individually we can't make promises to get you better snow removal or garbage pick up. In fact, as councillors, we should only speak to one person, the Chief Administrative Officer or CAO. Council directs the CAO and tells him what to do. The CAO is the boss for all the employees who work for the Town of Sundre. He tells all of them what to do. If you call a Councillor or the Mayor, we will call the CAO to do follow up because that is all we can do. I just can't call the grader operator and tell him to get snow off a street.
We have had an orientation from all departments so we have a better idea of the scope and parameters of those departments. It is a steep learning curve for me filled with many "I had no idea" moments (and I had the job before). We are trying to learn about the implications and consequences of the upcoming budget decisions we have to make. I would love to have no increase in taxes (wouldn't we all) but there are consequences. We have to plan 10, 20 and 30 years out rather than make decisions that will have to be corrected next year - or by the next Council - or by the one after that. It is complicated - and very exciting. Your Council will work behind the scenes with staff to deal with all the details to continually improve programs services and facilities for our community.
As residents, you probably have better access to individual departments than Council because we cannot influence the work of staff members in different departments. If you have a question or a concern, everyone on staff wants you to call the Town Office at 403-638-3551. Every department of the Town has priorities as to how they operate. The first priority in every department is customer service. They rely on you to let them know if you have questions about service or if you have concerns about when something will be done. If you don't call, nobody knows what to do to help you or answer your questions.
The Mayor and Councillors want to hear about your questions and concerns also. We follow up with the CAO to see how things get handled and it helps us to know if there are common questions. Council can change policy, change budgets, and direct the CAO to tell staff to do things differently - if the majority of Council wants that.
In the lead up to the election, we heard from many residents. I took notes and so did your Councillors. What I found was that many of the questions or concerns just needed an explanation. There is misinformation out there and we want to correct it. The vast majority of programs, services and facilities operated by the Town sail smoothly along. There are very good people doing very good work in very complex circumstances. People are generally OK with things. Again, as your Council, we want what you want - to continually improve.
I want to close with a few thoughts. If you are healthy, and you live in Canada, there are millions of people around the world that would give everything to trade places - for the opportunities that would be available for their children and grand children. We live in Alberta - the best province in Canada. We live in rural Alberta - so very closely connected to the outdoors. Is there a better place to live? Let us be sure we temper our expectations with the appreciation of all the blessings we take for granted each and every day.