INNISFAIL – It has been a long road for Don Harrison but one that led to a huge stockpile of government knowledge and experience.
Now 66-years-old and retired, Harrison has 37 years of provincial government experience, which included sitting on many local and national committees, and as a provincial assistant deputy minister for sustainable resource development.
At the municipal government level, Harrison is a past one-term mayor for the Town of Onoway.
With this professional background, he is one of four candidates seeking the vacant seat on town council in the June 8 byelection.
Most importantly, Harrison has a long history as an Innisfailian. He was raised in town, spending his early school years here before moving on in 1971 to get his post-secondary education and earning a forestry degree.
A few years ago, he returned home to work as branch manager for the Innisfail Royal Canadian Legion. Harrison has since left that post and for the past 18 months has been a regular fixture at town council meetings.
Today he wants to serve the community as its new town councillor.
“I have the strength and experience to make tough decisions. I have the experience from coming from a previous municipality. I know how government works,” noting his past government experience gave him expertise at networking, facilitation and leadership.
“That is where you are needed to lead and facilitate,” said Harrison. “I believe I have the strength and experience to do that, and it is working with six other individuals. You’re one voice on council and you have to sort of sway and convince the other council members that your idea or thought is the right way to go.”
Harrison was the first citizen in Innisfail to throw his name in the hat as the right byelection candidate. He has canvassed local neighbourhoods hard, keeping in mind all social distancing guidelines during the pandemic but always willing to engage citizens on the pressing issues facing the community.
“It involves around infrastructure,” said Harrison of one important issue he has consistently heard. “I’ve heard a lot about how our roads are beginning to deteriorate and what is the long-term plan? I would be pushing for a new program the town is beginning to work on and that is the asset management program. It’s a tool that will help make better decisions and place resources, both manpower and economic, in the right place so we can keep up with our deteriorating infrastructure.”
He remains optimistic of the many opportunities available for the town and its citizens. Harrison highlights the town’s many recreational amenities, including the Innisfail Aquatic Centre and the potentially big plans to revitalize the facility.
He also noted the town has been proactive in boosting small business during the pandemic with the 13 Ways initiative that will work collaboratively with business, the chamber, the town and the public to find out what the town needs for future prosperity and how to get there.
If he is elected, he promises to consistently connect with citizens.
“It’s around face to face,” he said. “I call this the walk about, actually doing door knocking throughout the term – just to do a check-in to see if we are on the right track. Meeting with businesses. Nothing wrong with stopping in and just saying hello and seeing if there is anything we are doing which is good, or which is bad or what we could change,” he said. “It is the face to face.”
He feels public engagement is vital, not only for simple council messaging but to gauge the public pulse on vital issues.
“It is paramount. We have to remember as council who we work for. We are not there working for ourselves. We are not working for administration. We are actually put there by the constituents,” said Harrison.
“We have to listen to them. That is why this chicken business was so important to me. It was disappointing to see that council for a number of reasons didn’t take the survey results. But to me it is very, very important public engagement. We can’t do enough of it.”
For more information on Don Harrison’s campaign visit his Facebook page.