St. Albert city Coun. Jacquie Hansen has decided she will not run for re-election this fall, saying the time commitment would make it difficult to prioritize her family.
"It was a really hard decision ... For 25 years we've lived in St. Albert, and it's been awesome, but we've been away from our family all that time," Hansen said.
All of her extended family and two of her children live on the coast in B.C., she said, and committing to another four years on council would leave little time to visit them once COVID-19 restrictions are eased. While she has no plans to move away from St. Albert, it's difficult to tell what lies ahead for her family.
"I do think that the council in the city deserves a councillor that will be dedicated to the whole four years. I just think with the circumstances of family changes, I'm not sure that I can do that, and I wouldn't want to commit unless I was really certain. I would have liked to have put in a couple of terms with the community, but there's too many uncertainties on the family side."
First elected to council in 2017, Hansen said she feels privileged to have represented St. Albert residents over her combined 16 years as an elected official, both at the school board and municipal level. She said the decision not to run again was bittersweet as she has enjoyed working on council and seeing how much has been accomplished over the last four years.
Looking back, Hansen said there are several highlights from her time on council: the renaming of the Jarome Iginla Arena, getting the Clean Energy Improvement Program approved, and the twinning of Ray Gibbon Drive. If she decided to stay on, Hansen said she would have pushed for efforts to revitalize the city's downtown.
"If I can encourage council to do one thing, it would be to really focus on our downtown and bring that back to life."
Her advice to future council candidates in the lead-up to the municipal election Oct. 18 would be to think of being a councillor as a full-time job.
"Be prepared to adjust your schedule and be prepared to read a lot on the weekends," she said, as council usually gets their Monday agenda packages right before the weekend. "And ask a lot of questions, because it really does take two or three years before you really feel that you're in a groove."
Hansen urged future candidates not to run on one issue, as issues come and go and the job of a city councillor requires insight at a broader scale. Hansen also said opening up to conversations with residents is important, too, as the community faces its challenges together.
"Be there, be present, and talk to people face-to-face. That's a little harder, obviously, over last year. But I think it's important to meet people where they're at, understand them, and help them understand your perspective as well."
As for what's next, Hansen said she'll be looking for other ways to remain active in the community outside public service.
"This has been a great council, progressive and forward-thinking. I look forward to seeing what they can accomplish further in the next four years."