Two town councillors will go head-to-head this fall now that Coun. Sheldon Fingler has decided to step into the mayor’s race.
Fingler, who said earlier this summer that he would be running for re-election as councillor this fall, announced Wednesday morning that he was instead running for mayor of Morinville.
“It’s been a process I’ve been thinking about for awhile,” he said of the switch, one he made at the encouragement of family and community members. “We’re at a crucial time in our community,” he said, and the town will need strong leadership to get through the next four years.
First elected last fall, Fingler, 40, is a life-long town resident who worked 10 years with the town’s public works department. The married father of three is the owner of Infinite Event Services, an event planning company that, among other jobs, provides the audio-visual services for Capital Region Board meetings. Fingler is also an active member of the local chamber of commerce.
Morinville has a lot of good ideas on the go, Fingler said, but needs a strong vision of the future to guide it.
“People aren’t moving to Morinville because there’s a Costco at the north end of St. Albert,” he said. “People are moving to Morinville because they want that small community feel.”
While the town should strive to draw businesses and fill its vacant industrial lots, Fingler said Morinville had to be realistic about its expansion plans. “We don’t have a huge opportunity for more growth in the business sector,” he said, and doesn’t have a lot of extra land.
“I’m not saying we want to remain a bedroom community, but that is pretty much where we are now,” he said. “We are the residential destination of choice in the region, and we have to focus on that.”
That means the town should focus on bringing more recreational amenities to its borders, particularly a regional recreational complex. “Our arena is in need of repair,” he said, and a regional rec centre would be a big boost to the town. The town should work closely with local governments to get the cash it needs to build such a centre.
Many residents are concerned about residential taxes, Fingler said, which are about the second highest in the region. Others have questioned staffing levels at town hall, and the steep drop in operational reserves in last year’s budget.
“I’ve grown a business from out of my basement and my garage into an over a million dollar per year business,” he said, and that’s given him a fundamental understanding on how to manage money. “I would treat every dollar of the municipality’s the same way that I treat my own.”
Fingler said he would commission an external review of town administration if elected, one that would seek efficiencies and figure out the kind of staff the town needed for the next four years. “People understand they get what they pay for,” he said, and he wanted to make sure residents were getting the best value for their dollar. This review would cost about $100,000 over four years, he estimated, and would be more objective than the town’s recent internal operations review.
When asked for details on how he would address residential taxes or the town’s commercial/residential tax split, Fingler was short on specifics. “Until I see an operations review, I couldn’t say where the next steps are.”
Fingler pitched himself as someone who has a passionate commitment to Morinville and knows the town from the bottom up. “They know I’m in there for the long haul.”
Fingler is the fourth candidate in this fall’s Morinville mayoral race. He is running alongside deputy mayor Lisa Holmes, Shotgun Sally’s owner Christa Naughton and Lions Club president Carrie Foss.