OLDS — Things got pretty emotional on Oct. 12 as the 2017-2021 edition of Olds council met for the last time.
Councillors thanked each other, town staff and community residents for all their cooperation and support over the years.
It was especially emotional because three councillors chose not to seek re-election this time: Mary Jane Harper, who has served four terms on council; Debbie Bennett, who served three terms; and Mitch Thomson, who gained a seat on council during a byelection in 2020.
Three councillors sought re-election. They are Mary Anne Overwater who went for a third term; as well as Heather Ryan and Wanda Blatz who each ran for a second term.
Mayor Michael Muzychka sought a second term. He became mayor in the 2017 election when then-incumbent Judy Dahl withdrew her candidacy. She had served as mayor for 13 years.
Blatz was the first to offer her thoughts.
“Potentially this could possibly be our last council meeting, so I just wanted to take a quick opportunity to thank you, my colleagues, for the support over the last four years,” she said.
Blatz was among many who said it was an “honour and a privilege” to work with her fellow councillors and town staff as well as to serve town residents.
Blatz also thanked town administrators and staff as well as residents for their support.
“I know that we’ve got a great crew here and I hope to see that they all continue on and support the Town of Olds,” she added.
Bennett described town staff as “fabulous.”
“I believe we’ve accomplished so much over the last four years. I’m very proud of the progress we’ve made,” Bennett said.
“I think the citizens are very happy, generally speaking, with the amenities that Olds has, with what’s coming forward and always making sure that we look after all age groups and keep having people come to Olds to live, to bring business.”
“It has been a blessing and an honour, through challenges as well, but I’m very thankful to have the opportunity, so thank you very much. Group hug,” she added with a laugh.
Harper found it very tough to say goodbye.
“I believe that the town of Olds has come a long way in the last 14 years. We have a tremendous amount of accomplishments,” she said.
Harper listed redevelopment of Uptowne Olds as well as policies on keeping urban hens and the creation of murals as examples of those accomplishments.
She said another important accomplishment was creation of the new town-owned Rotary Athletic Park, a goal she said took more than 40 years to achieve.
Harper also noted town officials surveyed residents on the garbage pickup schedule and heard “very loud and clear” that they want to keep the current schedule.
“So we have a lot to be very proud of,” she said.
Thomson said getting used to being a councillor just as the COVID-19 pandemic hit was “a bit unique” but he was buoyed and impressed by the way councillors, town staff and residents all came endeavoured to handle it as best they could.
"I would just suggest that not everyone that makes a real difference in life wears a cape,” Thomson said.
“I think we’re still a community where that happens on every street and every corner, whether that be at the elected official level or the volunteer, the person working in the coffee shop or that person who’s happy – or not so happy – putting on a mask to get that service.
“The community of Olds is a remarkable community with a real positive future. And when we come together and work together to make it the community that we want, we often contribute in positive ways.”
Overwater also got pretty emotional.
She agreed that council accomplished many important goals over the years and named creation of the Public Art Advisory Committee and the Police Advisory Committee as examples of those accomplishments.
She conceded the Police Advisory Committee has had some hiccups as some people have come and gone but she’s hoping it will “really get up and get going” soon.
"I also want to thank the staff. Yes, I know, I can be very gruff sometimes. However, it all comes from a good place,” Overwater said.
She thanked her fellow councillors, saying it’s been a “pleasure” to work with them.
Overwater reserved special thoughts for Bennett and Harper, saying over the years, they became good friends as well as colleagues.
"Thank you so much, ladies, I wish you all the best,” she said.
Ryan said serving on council was an “eye-opening experience.”
“You learn a lot. You gain friends, you gain an insight into a lot of things that are happening in this town,” she said.
She too is proud of all that has been accomplished on council over the years and vowed to be involved in the future, one way or another.
Muzychka said it’s been “an absolute honour” serving as mayor.
“I grew up here. I wasn’t born here, but I came here in Grade 2 at the ripe old age of seven and this has been my home and even the little lapse where I went to Calgary for a few years, I always had very, very strong roots here.
“And the pull got so great that I couldn't resist it anymore and nine years ago had to come back to this community because it is exactly that – incredible,” he said.
“The Town of Olds in my opinion is head and shoulders over many other communities in Canada and we’re incredibly lucky to be here.”
He too praised all the town staff for their hard work and dedication to the community, noting that has been especially challenging during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Muzychka said over the years, Bennett and Harper have “gone over and above their call of duty” to serve town residents.
“And ladies, it’s been nothing short of monumental what you’ve accomplished over your terms,” he added.
"I appreciate working for the past four years with you and absolutely acknowledge everything that you’ve done for our community, thank you.”