SUNDRE — With the deadline to submit nominations to run in the upcoming municipal election now past, there is officially a three-way mayoral race.
The candidates, who all shared their reasons for running, are current councillors Cheri Funke and Richard Warnock as well as newcomer Patty LaPointe.
Funke, who had prior to her first full term in 2017 also served partial terms after being acclaimed once and elected another in two byelections, said, “I’ve seen what it is to be a council member. Let’s be honest, that’s the majority of the (mayor’s) role.”
A mayor, Funke said, has the added responsibility of acting as the spokesperson for council.
“I am running because I believe that I have seen what it takes to bring the council together and become a team. Because we are not effective unless we are a team,” she said.
Above and beyond keeping a hawkish eye on the municipality’s financial situation, her top priorities include seeing through to completion the multi-million-dollar wastewater treatment facility’s expansion as well as ensuring the concerns of residents are front and centre.
“I know that tourism is important, but I think we’ve lost our focus on the residents and what they would like to see their tax dollars go towards,” she said.
“I’d like to have a secondary focus on tourism, but I’d like to bring the taxpayers and their wants to the frontlines.”
Pledging only not to make promises she cannot keep, Funke said her past educational experience on council as well as the network of contacts she’s established locally and throughout the province along the way “will help continue to move our community forward.”
Warnock, who on top of his one-term on council brings decades of experience working in the oil and gas industry including 25 years in senior management with a trucking company that operated in both the U.S. and Canada, believes his background can provide strong leadership guidance.
“I also worked in land acquisition, buildings, jurisdictions all over Canada and the United States. So, I have a pretty diverse background in operations,” Warnock said.
He said his experience in senior management established a solid understanding about budgeting factors such as finances, variances, capital expenditures and capital depreciation.
While he considers the sewage lagoon critical, the project is no longer his top priority as plans to build the pilot are already proceeding now that financing is secured in large part through provincial funding.
“Maintaining the service levels without raising the taxes to our residents and businesses is my number 1 priority,” he said, adding council must strive to work alongside administration to find efficiencies.
“We do not need to cut our level of service to maintain the status quo. We do not need to continually raise taxes," he said.
According to Statistics Canada, the Consumer Price Index in Alberta rose 4.7 per cent on a year-over-year basis in August compared to 4.1 per cent nationally.
Warnock went on to say that the municipality must understand and be able to differentiate between the needs and desires of residents and entrepreneurs.
“We all have wish lists. I wish we could have every street top-of-the-line paved in Sundre. I wish we could have every utility the best. But with our tax base, you cannot do that,” he said.
But he sees plenty of potential ahead, pointing to $20-plus million in commercial investments over the past four years.
“That’s amazing for a town of 2,700,” he said.
Tourism is also among his top priorities.
“I believe that we have to rely on year-round tourism, and we have to find a way to enhance that," he said.
LaPointe, who works at Country Road RV and formerly served as the Sundre Fire Department's assistant to the fire chief, is for the first time running for public office.
She decided to run because she has over the course of the past few years “seen the power of the people, lost to the power of the government. And that has to change. I can either sit back and do nothing or I can step up and try to do my part.”
Expressing concern about Sundre’s sustainability, she said supporting local businesses is now more than ever of critical importance.
Also among her priorities is infrastructure and looking to the future.
“What are our plans moving forward?” she said.
Recognizing the importance of tourism, LaPointe said the sector always has and always will be a part of Sundre, but that more needs to be done to accommodate and encourage future growth.
The wastewater treatment facility’s upgrade undoubtedly factors in, she said, expressing concerns about how the pilot project will turn out.
“What happens if something goes wrong in the next year, do we have a backup plan?” she said. “I don’t know any more than anybody else does, and that’s not very much.”
When told the full financial risk of the pilot project is being borne by SoneeraWater — the company deploying the technology that has already been successfully trialled in Unity, Sask. — until the facility is certified by the provincial government, she curtly said, “I’m not here to debate it, I’m not here to do anything. You asked a question, that’s my concern.”
She also urged residents to take the time get informed and vote.
“Especially for the younger people out there,” she said. “Educate yourself on what’s going on in the community.”