A very engaged group of Stettler Elementary School students had loads of questions for local civic leaders during a recent visit to Stettler Town Hall.
Stettler Mayor Sean Nolls, County of Stettler Mayor Larry Clarke and Grey Hayden, chair of the Clearview School board, shared with the youngsters about how municipalities are managed and about some of the services local families receive via the Town, the County and the local school district as well.
“We are so excited to have you guys here today,” said Greg Switenky of the Town of Stettler. “Over the past number of years, the Province of Alberta has also asked all of us to collaborate more,” he added, referring to the strengthening in partnerships amongst municipalities.
He told the students its a big step towards heightened efficiency, too, which of course benefits their folks as taxpayers.
Clarke told the students that a key difference between the County and the Town is that the County is divided into wards which are each represented by a single councillor, whereas the Town is represented by a set of councillors.
But in many ways, the bodies work together on many fronts to better serve residents at large.
“There are 19 different boards that we all sit on together, because we recognize that as a group we are stronger,” added Nolls. “We always work together. When we talk about ‘community’, we mean the Town, the County and the School Board because we are stronger together.”
“And really, with our mix of Town and County residents even in this class here today, that shows community. That’s what we are really trying to work towards, is that sense of community,” he said.
A great example where the Town, the County and the School district worked together was the refurbishment of the track in town earlier this year, Nolls pointed out.
The men were also asked about their decisions to be involved in leadership and they were quick to point to their passion for what they do. They were also asked what specifically motivated them to run for office.
Clarke said what primarily motivated him was that he has lived in this area for the vast majority of his life.
“I have worked all over Alberta, Saskatchewan and into the United States in the oil field but still always had my home here. When I retired, I felt that I could give back to my community, and I thought I could bring some good ideas to our County council. So that’s why I ran.”
Nolls recalled moving to Stettler in 2004 and how he started going to charitable events around the community.
“I saw how much everyone in this town just gives! I didn’t think I was giving enough, and I wanted to do more,” he said. “That’s why I wanted to run for council, and then for mayor on the second term. I wanted to contribute.”
Hayden said that the motivation for him was primarily about bettering things for the students.
“Secondly, it was my concern for the rural system and the changes that I could see happening in it,” he said. “I thought that with 45 years of business in town here, that I had an opportunity to make a difference; to try and keep our rural education system moving forward and staying really positive for you,” he explained, adding that as to pre-requisites for running for school board, likely the biggest one is having a desire to serve the community.
Ultimately, it’s about working for the community, and about emphasizing democracy in action. Nolls encouraged the kids to check out a council meeting at some point, and to bring along their folks. “This is democracy that really affects your everyday lives,” he pointed out.
“This level of government is grassroots. This is about the sidewalks we walk on, the gravel and paved roads we travel on, that water we drink, and the recreation facilities we enjoy,” he added.
Each man was also asked what they enjoy about their leadership roles.
“I really like doing things that make a difference…and giving time to the public,” noted Nolls. “I owe them that and I love to give it.”
Hayden said he enjoys the continual interaction with students, parents, teachers and educational assistants. “It’s a great experience for us. And it really means something. It’s a terrific experience to be part of a system that really devotes itself to the people of the community.”
For Clarke, it’s also about giving back to the people.
He also pointed out how happy he is to see students bringing home awards from various events they attend throughout the region, like sporting events for example.
“That shows the dedication and the drive (out there). It shows people doing their best.”