Larry Clarke was re-elected into his council seat in the Oct. 18, 2021 election, then was reappointed reeve during the County of Stettler organizational meeting a few days later. (submitted photo)

Larry Clarke was re-elected into his council seat in the Oct. 18, 2021 election, then was reappointed reeve during the County of Stettler organizational meeting a few days later. (submitted photo)

County of Stettler Reeve Larry Clarke reflects on past term, future planning

Clarke: ‘We were working with staff and council trying to set ourselves up for the next four years’

The previous County of Stettler council had a successful previous term, but much work is left undone, according to county Reeve Larry Clarke.

With COVID-19 throwing an unforeseen complication into County operations, “staff worked very well” through the pandemic, seamlessly activating the County’s emergency plan and activating the Emergency Operations Centre at the County shop.

In addition to the handling of the pandemic, thanks to some stimulus funding, some repairs in the County were made to infrastructure during the previous term.

“Six bridges were fixed with major culverts,” said Clarke during a recent interview. “Everything came in under budget. That’s kind of the key thing.”

Major culverts are culverts ranging from four feet to six feet in size.

According to Clarke, everything that the last council did was with an eye to the future.

“We were working with staff and council trying to set ourselves up for the next four years, which I think we have,” said Clarke.

“Our reserves had been depleted after the purchase of our County shop, they’re now back to where we wanted them. We’re set pretty good to face the challenges going forward.”

Challenges are expected.

The Government of Alberta has been announcing cuts to the Municipality Sustainability Initiative (MSI) program for the last several years, and though the cuts have yet to happen, Clarke sees a real possibility that 2022 could be the year.

“We need to balance our budget,” said Clarke. “We need to budget for those cuts.”

As a way to guide council with their budgeting process, council goes through a process known as strategic planning every four years, where they set the guidelines and goals of the next council term.

During the planning process, department heads are also invited in to present as to what they would like to see, or need, as far as long-term planning goes, so council can take that into consideration during budget deliberations.

Everything is reviewed during the process, including the services that are provided to the County residents, such as roads and water, both of which are a priority for council.

“Roads are a lifeline for our County,” said Clarke. “They allow our residents to get their product to market and their kids to school.”

Although the main strategic planning sessions occur during the earliest parts of a new council term, the plans are reviewed on a yearly basis to make sure the County is staying on track.

The recent election saw the majority of council returned to their seats, despite elections running in five of the seven wards.

Les Stulberg was acclaimed into Ward 1, as was Ward 7 councillor Paul McKay.

Dave Grover in Ward 2, Clarke in Ward 3, James Nibourg in Ward 4, and Ernie Gendre in Ward 5 were all re-elected to their council seats.

Justin Stevens was elected to his seat in Ward 6, beating out incumbent Cheri Nietz.

At the organizational meeting at the end of October after the election, Clarke was reappointed reeve of the County.

“The next four years, we have a lot of things to work on,” said Clarke. “We have to finish some of the things we started last term.”

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