SUNDRE — The municipality’s new mayor expressed enthusiasm for his new role and said that judging by the results, voters on average seemed to have faith in the town’s direction.
“I do believe the way the votes turned out, there is voter confidence that Sundre is doing some very good things,” said Richard Warnock, who coming into the Oct. 18 election had served one term as a councillor.
Warnock emerged victorious over former council colleague Cheri Funke and newcomer Patty LaPointe.
“I think I ran a good campaign. I’m happy with the results of course — I should be. And I look forward to the role,” he said, adding he plans to fulfil his pledge to do the job to the best of his abilities.
Momentum has over the past term of council been building up for the municipality, and the new mayor hopes to see continuity as council — which has several fresh faces — moves forward.
“I’m very pleased with what’s happened in the past four years, with the commercial investment in Sundre,” he said, adding the wastewater treatment facility’s impending upgrade is another major milestone that will help facilitate future growth.
Moving forward, he identified his top two priorities as endeavouring to build consensus among the members of council to work together, as well as to listen to and heed the advice brought forward by residents with the goal of incorporating feedback in the effort to develop policies, procedures and bylaws that will work for the benefit the community.
A key for council’s success, he added, is representation.
“We need to know that we’re representing the diverse population of Sundre,” he said, adding that means keeping in mind the needs and wants of everyone from seniors to young families.
Fortunately, the wide spectrum of diversity represented by Sundre’s residents is reflected by the new council, he said.
“We’ve got two young family members coming onto council. So, their viewpoint and aspect in that area, I will really appreciate,” he said, expressing a similar sentiment for council members with a business background.
“We’ve got a good council. I’m looking forward it,” he said.
Joining him at the council table are incumbents Paul Isaac and Todd Dalke, as well as new members Connie Anderson, Chris Vardas, Jaime Marr and Owen Petersen.
“We have four new council members. So, they’re going to have their ideas and they’re going to bring forth what they heard in running their campaigns,” said Warnock.
While he expects to hit the ground running with an upcoming fall workshop budget discussion, Warnock said that the four-year financial document’s foundation has already been largely laid out.
“The 2022 budget was presented by the previous council so that the new council didn’t come in cold turkey and try and have to work through the mammoth task of (developing) a budget,” he said.
And although the first few months are always the biggest hurdle for any new council, Warnock said he intends to lean on his leadership experience as he takes on the challenge ahead.
“The message out there,” he said when asked what resonated loudest throughout the course of the election campaign, “is that the people want to be informed. And we have to find the avenue that works to do that, because we are a working council — we’re not a social media council.”
The municipality’s efforts to inform residents through the monthly utility bills as well as by posting for example notifications and meeting minutes on the town's website, does not adequately reach the whole community, he said.
“We don’t get the online traffic in those areas that we should,” he said. “They would sooner have us give it to them in another fashion. I have to work with council so we all find a way to do that, because we are doing good things — people just don’t know we’re doing good things.”
Offering some parting thoughts not only to supporters who voted for him but also those who cast their ballots in favour of Funke or LaPointe, Warnock expressed gratitude to everyone who took the time to come out and vote, and expressed a desire to work with council to try to answer questions the community raises.
“No matter where your alliances lie, the political system and the free enterprise system does work,” he said. “I’m hoping that I can live up to the challenge.”
LaPointe could not be reached following an attempt to contact her.
Meanwhile, although the result was not what Funke had hoped for, the former councillor nevertheless took the outcome in good stride.
“If I was going to lose, I have the utmost respect for him (Warnock), and he is the one that I would like to lose to,” she said on Wednesday, Oct. 20 more than a day following the election during a phone interview after taking an opportunity to reflect on how the proverbial dust settled.
“The sting is always there when you don’t get what you want. But now that I’ve had a day and I’m good, I know that the community is still in good hands,” she said.
With the expertise of administration's staff providing guidance to the new council, Funke said she does not "foresee any big negatives in the future" and rather anticipates the status quo of the past four years will carry on.
“Nothing huge is going to happen for a year, because there’s a lot of them that have to learn what it is to be a councillor, and Richard will have to learn what it is to be a mayor,” she said. “I hope he leads them in the right direction and leads them as a team.”
As to whether Funke is already considering another run in four years, she said, “That seems to be the going question — I’d never say never. But I definitely have to watch and see what the state of the town is.”
Having over the past couple terms she's served put in “110 per cent," Funke candidly confessed, “I didn’t realize until yesterday how tired I am.”
However, she remains fully committed to staying involved in some initiatives, including the Alberta Water Council.
“They have asked me to stay on the project even with the outcome of Monday,” she said.
And local organizations are always on the lookout for volunteers, she added.
“We have such amazing groups in this community, and they always need help. I can hopefully use my education and experience to their advantage,” she said.
“So, I’m never very far away.”