INNISFAIL – Heather Whymark is back and she wants to be a civic leader from the other side of the table.
Whymark, the town’s former director of corporate services, is seeking a seat on town council.
She has been an Innisfailian for 15 years. Whymark brings 18 years of municipal work experience, including seven with the Town of Sylvan Lake and 11 years with the Town of Innisfail where she managed the town’s finances. When she left the town last March the municipality was in an enviable zero-debt fiscal condition with more than $13 million in surplus reserves.
Whymark said she was approached by “many” citizens, including seniors and those with young families, who wanted her to be their voice on town council. After much soul searching, she came to the conclusion that yes, she had something to offer Innisfailians during this challenging pandemic era.
She said one key priority she’s hearing is the well-being of the community, specifically mental health and the destructive consequences of alcohol and drug addiction.
“Part of that is COVID and the other part of that is the chaos. Council has run in chaos this past term," said Whymark. "External chaos of course is COVID, and that came and nobody knew how to handle that. We were unprepared for the magnitude of what COVID brought on board, and it has created havoc in the community.
“Neighbours aren’t even nice to neighbours anymore,” she said, adding the situation is made worse by angry and hurtful social media discourse. “They have every right to be. I’m not taking that away from them but it will be council’s job to try and bring back some well-being and support to build the community.
“We are broken. This community is very segregated,” added Whymark. “It needs to be brought back together, and a council that does not operate internally with chaos can’t make logical decisions unless they operate as a team, and that has not been happening with this council.”
With these strong statements, what solution does Whymark offer that would initiate a healing process for the community? She believes the town has to be accountable for its spending.
“Is this the time for huge growth, to put money towards big projects?’” she asked. “Or it is time in the next few years to regroup, to get back where we were before? There will be a new norm. The financial money that we have coming in isn’t going to the same. Therefore, things have to be done differently.
“Unless you have full community support it won’t matter. You will always have unrest,” she said.
Whymark added there needs to be funds from the appropriate sources to support citizens who are “silent," as well as platforms to hear their voices, like town halls, on issues of mental health and domestic violence.
“There is a majority of our community that does not speak out for fear, and that should never ever have to happen in a community,” she said.
If Whymark is elected she will be a part of council that will have new faces, maybe many. How will the town’s former number 2 senior management member trained to serve council adjust to being on the other side of the table as a decision maker?
“This isn’t about me. This is what the people of the community are asking me to do, and I’m supporting them,” said Whymark. “They are the ones electing us. That’s the voice I am bringing forth.”