Morinville candidate gets back in the game

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Former four-term councillor Barry Turner to run again

A four-term former Morinville councillor will be back in the political ring for a fifth time this fall.

Barry Turner, 39, announced last week that he would seek a fifth term as a Morinville town councillor in this fall’s civic election. A senior database administrator with the University Hospital Foundation, Turner has a political science degree and served four terms as town councillor from 1995 to 2007.

“I claim to have a motivational problem in that I’m motivated to get involved,” he joked, when asked why he’s returning to politics.

First elected at 21, he took a break in 2007 to work on his career and spend time with his family. Now that the kids are grown up and his career is solid, he wants to return to public office.

“I found the position extremely rewarding, and I’d love to carry on,” he said.

Turner said he would focus on three things if elected: people, potential and progress. Help people realize potential and you get progress, he explained.

“What I had learned from my first four terms is that people are the number one resource in a community,” he said, which is why he strove to work with residents who had ideas and the drive to realize them.

He helped launch the town’s trail committee, for example, which established the town’s current trail system, and worked closely with the town’s historical society to renovate the old convent.

“That was a tough battle. We had to come up with some creative solutions.”

One of his top priorities if elected would be the creation of a Morinville Community Foundation – a resource that would provide community groups with grants and expertise to carry out public projects.

Volunteers have a huge multiplier effect when it comes to the good they get out of grants, Turner said.

“This is one of the few places the community can put resources and have them leveraged,” he said.

This foundation (the details of which he had yet to finalize) would give community groups resources they might not have in-house, and help the town have more successful community projects such as the recent efforts to fix the St. Jean Baptiste Church steeple.

Another priority for Turner would be to ramp up community involvement in council’s decision-making process.

“Progress happens when the community’s goals and council’s goals are in sync,” Turner said.

To do this, he hopes to bring in “open space technology” – a planning technique that emphasizes community involvement.

Right now, council collects feedback, creates complex plans and then lets those plans sit on the shelf unused, Turner explained – a very top-down process. Under this new concept, it would instead call residents to a mini-conference and ask them to raise issues or ideas related to a certain theme. Residents would split off into groups to discuss those issues and come back with reports and actions that could be implemented almost immediately.

“You have a much tighter planning and action cycle.”

Residents expect councillors to use tax dollars responsibly, Turner said, which is why he would focus on resident-driven initiatives. He also emphasized his track record for fiscal management.

“When I was initially elected to council, the town was paying about a million dollars a year in debt servicing,” he noted.

By the time he left, it was down to about a third of that.

Turner said he was looking forward to hitting the campaign trail and reconnecting with residents.

“Leadership is about listening more than it is talking,” he said, and about making the community’s goals your own. “That’s when you really hit pay dirt.”

The Gazette will profile other candidates as they come forward.

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Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.