Sturgeon County needs a quick, business-orientated council if it wants to benefit from the spinoffs of its upcoming upgrader, says a county council candidate.
Wayne Bokenfohr, 51, announced last week that he would run for council this fall in Division 3 (the Villeneuve-Calahoo region). Incumbent Ken McGillis said earlier this year that he would not seek re-election.
Bokenfohr, who lives near Volmer, is a land developer and a longtime member of the county’s economic development board (as well as its predecessor, the ad-hoc services committee). He has previously worked on the election campaigns for Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel and Edmonton city councillor Ed Gibbons, and once ran and reclaimed a gravel pit (now known as The Quarry Golf Club).
Bokenfohr said he started volunteering with the county about 12 years ago in order to keep Sturgeon from becoming the anti-business bureaucracy that was Edmonton. “Fast forward in time and the county’s going exactly down that path,” he said, making it harder for business to move forward.
“I think it’s time we started looking at being more pro-development and started running the county like a business rather than the small rural municipality it has been in the past.”
The North West upgrader will bring a cluster of spinoff businesses to the county, Bokenfohr said. “We need a council that’s going to be business-orientated and able to deal with issues on demand,” he said. “We don’t need an administration running interference so that those (companies) go to Lamont, the county of Strathcona or the City of Edmonton.”
To get the latter, Bokenfohr said he would push for a spending review if elected. “I think we have to have a look at how we’re spending our dollars.”
Right now, administrators are pushed to spend any leftover money they have at the end of the year because their budgets will be cut if they don’t, he said. He hoped to bring in an incentive plan to encourage departments to come in under budget – one that could let staff use leftover cash for pet projects.
He’d also push for the county to leave the Capital Region Board, as it placed too many restrictions on land development.
“We spent a considerable amount of money on doing an area structure plan for Villeneuve only to have it vetoed,” he said. “For selfish reasons on Edmonton and St. Albert’s part, we again don’t have a destiny of our own.” Board restrictions also made it tough for farmers to subdivide their land, he added, making it more difficult for kids to stay on the farm.
“I’m going to be paying taxes to council for the next 20 years,” Bokenfohr said, but his kids will be doing so for 40. “They (youth) should have input into what we are doing.”
If elected, Bokenfohr said he would create a scholarship or mentorship program that would give local students experience in local government, perhaps by shadowing a councillor for a day.
A former St. Albert resident, Bokenfohr said he hoped to build better relations between the city and the county, adding that the longer, four-year term might make this easier. “We can be so much stronger together than we can be fighting each other.”
He also pledged to work with whoever else is on council to end the constant 4-3 splits of the last term. “We need to build consensus.”
Bokenfohr is the first person to declare his candidacy for Division 3.