Being Mayor

Throughout my term as mayor, I have been motivated by the pursuit of what I call the four pillars of community: beauty, justice, fulfillment, and relationships. These pillars are qualities that inspire us and are evident in thriving, healthy communities. But I have also come to think that perhaps a fifth pillar exists – sacrifice. I think of all the people I have met who sacrifice so much for Kindersley; leaders who sacrifice time and energy to ensure activities and events occur, generous people who donate money so organizations can fulfill their vision to achieve their goals, families that sacrifice togetherness to build community, parents that sacrifice time, energy, and money to help their children success, business owners who donate money, time and services, and more. In the past, I have thought that these types of sacrifices are an ingredient necessary to achieve fulfillment and healthy relationships. However, after reflecting upon my experience with so many good people, sacrifice is a pillar of a healthy community.

Being mayor is a terrific experience. I have met some great people in Kindersley, around the province, and nationally who work hard to enhance the beauty, justice, fulfillment, and relationships of our neighbours, residences, and public spaces in Kindersley, Saskatchewan, and Canada. They sacrifice a lot.

Often not talked about is the humbling most elected officials face. It is a steep learning curve to understand a broad range of issues including the movement of poop, governance, finances, the interaction of groups in spaces, how the federal and provincial governments affect the ability of municipalities to fulfill their responsibilities and so much more so Council can make the best decisions possible at a given point in time. I love the challenge of learning something new every day. It may go without saying, but I will say it: it’s not always a positive experience to say I don’t know; however, it has been good to learn. My favourite saying is from Socrates: “The wise man is the man who knows he does not know.”

Turning ideas into reality is challenging. Council’s vision is to have a positively engaged community that is building an economically and socially vibrant future. This is a lot of work involving the collaboration of many people including: Council, Administration, Community Leaders, Stakeholders, and residents. It means working together to enhance the quality of life for everyone. Our vision statement is broad enough to clearly state we want constructive engagement that is inclusive incorporating a diverse economic and social future. The vision is entirely dependent upon all of us working together. It seems – and I’m not sure I’m right – that the pioneers built the buildings and facilities needed for groups of people to live in one place; now it is our turn to build the social architecture necessary for a vibrant economy and society.

Being mayor means opportunities. I have been able to represent Kindersley at different forums and to different levels of government to bring attention to our challenges and solutions we have found. Discussing ideas and how they are implemented including what their intended and unintended consequences may be is exhilarating. It is good to influence change on behalf of Kindersley with other levels of government and with local groups.

One of my favourite sayings is from Abraham Lincoln’s First Inaugural address just as America embarked on a bloody civil war. Lincoln implores the people of the south and the north that they are not enemies. Hope, Lincoln says, comes from “the better angels of our nature.” As we work together to continue the work of building Kindersley that is what I see in so many of our leaders and neighbours: “the better angels of our nature” at work. I am so very grateful for people who days in and out do their best to lead sports groups, social agencies, arts groups, and more. Thank you.

Formally participating in local history is an honour. Some of those moments are large and public and others verge on anonymity. These moments include the official opening of the enhanced EK Waterline, Brett Diemert receiving the Lieutenant-Governor’s Award, the Anniversary Celebration of the Crisis Centre and the Co-Op, receiving a cheque from the provincial government due to the work of MLA Bill Boyd to pay off the rink, and more. People have shared with me their struggles with cancer, family loss, their hopes and frustrations, and their lives. These are opportunities I would have missed if I wasn’t Mayor. Thank you for sharing them with me.

Kindersley has seen a lot of change in the past three years: a new subdivision, new hotels and restaurants, the closing of the pool, trying to build a new pool, and more. We have gone through a busy season of Kindersley’s life. And now? adaptation and adjustment. The future is still unwritten and some of the story is in our hands while the rest is dependent on outside circumstances.

Being mayor means making decisions. Tough decisions have had to be made. Decisions that some may consider good while others think are bad. The closing of the pool required a lot of work to make the decision. Developing budgets so they are fair and sustainable build, Kindersley, and address our needs is challenging. Each generation of leadership through its budgets, policies, and bylaws, is responsible for enhancing Kindersley’s beauty, justness, allow for fulfillment, and facilitate healthy relationships.

Making and enforcing bylaws isn’t always easy – granted the anti-bullying bylaw was one of the easier ones but reviewing the unintended consequences of others such as false fire alarm billing and zoning bylaws is interesting. Again one of the things we wrestle with is the intended consequence and the unintended consequence. This process reminds me of Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s famous quote:

“…because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”

A key ingredient in my life is humble pie – accepting that there are times when decisions didn’t work out as intended. This is a fact of life in our daily decision but it is humbling when very public decisions don’t work out. However, it is also very humbling when things do work out as intended and sometimes I want to say “I told you so” but that is not appropriate.

Being mayor means being a team player. The mayor is one part of the team that is the community of Kindersley and as such there is one constant question I always ask: how can we get to ‘yes’? A yes for the Town and a yes for the person or the group. Sometimes, and you may find it hard to believe, it isn’t always a smooth process to get to yes or an understanding of why yes isn’t possible. Building on this I’ve had to learn that there are reasons beyond the Town’s control, such a legislation and regulations, that we can’t find a yes.

Working with Council has been great as we have created an environment in which everyone is heard. After disagreeing we move on to the next topic with healthy and respectful discussion leaving behind the disagreement. If we are to build a positively engaged community that is thriving, we back the decision that has been made and go on to the next issue.

For the Town to thrive it means that there is no ‘us’ versus ‘them.’ Success for Council means Administration is successful in implementing our vision and success for Administration is having the tools to implement Council’s vision. Success for Kindersley, our neighbours and groups, means we have an opportunity to contribute to Kindersley’s beauty, justice, fulfillment, and relationships. To achieve this means constructively communicating clearly with Council and Administration to address concerns and aspirations. The cycle starts again with Council and Administration doing what is reasonable to ‘get to yes.’ We all want to win but we will only win as a team working together.

Being mayor means sacrifice.  Every member of Council makes sacrifices to serve, just as so many of our community leaders do. Consider the dedication and sacrifice the men and women at the Fire Department make to serve us. For my part, I have been called early and late due to water leaks, sewer backups and more. There have been times when it has taken an hour to get a jug of milk for supper; just before Christmas it was an hour to buy a brick of butter. Though my family disagrees with me, these are good sacrifices. However, some people think Councillors and I are not people with feelings and the resulting verbal abuse has been astonishing. There has also been considerable financial sacrifice by myself and my family.

As much as I enjoy and love being Mayor, and as rewarding and fulfilling as being mayor has been, I can’t continue to be mayor; my family just can’t afford it. The financial sacrifice has been too significant and is no longer viable. Recently, I was offered a position in another community that I anticipate being very rewarding and fulfilling; this position starts January 4th. I want to thank you for allowing me the privilege of serving you as Mayor and I apologize I’m unable to complete my term; I will be finished no later than February 15th 2016. Being mayor is not what I set out to do – I had to be talked into it – but it was something I embraced wholeheartedly and did my best to serve you and Kindersley. The experience has exceeded my expectations and been substantially more rewarding and fulfilling than I anticipated. Thank you for the privilege; I appreciate it.

Surgite!