INNISFAIL — A former, three-term town councillor has following an eight-year hiatus from municipal politics decided to once again run for office in this October’s election.
“I’ve really missed municipal politics and how you can really work with all different kinds of groups,” said Jason Heistad, who has since stepping down from council taken on the role of secretary-treasurer for the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees after being elected to the position for a fourth term.
“I really like the community-based work that happens at the municipal level,” Heistad recently told The Albertan during a phone interview.
“But I also like working with the community and businesses in making sure that we grow Innisfail and we do it a way that is beneficial to all of us."
The 50-year-old husband and father of three grown daughters said he is in part running “to give back to the community. So, if elected, my intent over the term would be to donate up to one year’s salary.”
That annual honorarium represents roughly $15,000, an amount he wants to reinvest in local not-for-profit groups and initiatives to support not only inclusivity and diversity, but also young entrepreneurs with the hope of incentivizing them to come back to Innisfail after pursuing higher education or trades training.
“If elected, I’d really like to see council working closely with the high school and young people,” he said.
“I have a social work diploma, and a lot of my work was working with young people. I did career planning with them at Olds College.”
Plus, he said Innisfail’s benevolent business community is very giving and wants to work with and help young people, which will play an important part in finding ways to keep young talent in town.
“There’s an opportunity for us to gauge youth in entrepreneurship and open up opportunities for young people to become entrepreneurs in the community,” he said.
“It’s going to be critical to offset an aging population of Baby Boomers.”
Although fully cognizant of the importance a healthy private sector plays in creating a vibrant town, Heistad also recognizes the need for balance among all sectors.
Business is of course unquestionably a key to success, but is not the only variable in the equation to creating an enviable place to live. For a community to not only survive but thrive, several factors must be considered in the decision-making process, he said.
There must also be a strong municipal government, non-profit organizations, and publicly funded government entities alongside the business sector, all of which can coexist to sustain a prosperous municipality, he said.
“Not-for-profits offer a different value. They offer the community that sense of community and belonging,” said Heistad, who also sits on the Innisfail Welcoming and Inclusive Committee.
“That’s the basis of what I’ve learned in the last 17 years,” he said, adding the most successful communities consider and include all of those sectors to foster synergy that creates opportunities for everyone.
“My intent of running again is making sure that I’m providing supports to all individuals that are either in not-for-profit, business, community organizations, and making sure that we’re growing Innisfail in a positive way.”
Aside from his past experience on Innisfail’s town council, Heistad believes his involvement with the AUPE, which required a secondment — or leave of absence — from his prior position as a recruitment officer at Olds College, will bring to the council table valuable background to benefit the community.
“I’m quite familiar with the governance and the role that you provide in municipal council,” he said.
That means recognizing that a councillor cannot placate everyone and be “all things to all people,” he said.
“You’re part of the governance structure to make sure things are moving properly within the community, and moving forward in positive manner.”
During his past involvement on the local town council, Heistad said he participated in the process to make major operational decisions for the community, including but not limited to building a library, the existing fire hall, a maintenance hub that houses a bus shelter, as well as further developments to parks and recreational amenities in the area.
Elaborating on his desire to pay it forward, Heistad said he would not be where he is today had it not been for that past experience on council.