While their compatriots leapt off the starting line Monday, Sept. 20, for the 2021 municipal council race, three Sturgeon County and Morinville councillors were cheering them on from the stands, having decided to sit this one out.
Sturgeon County councillors Patrick Tighe and Karen Shaw and Morinville Coun. Lawrence Giffin confirmed earlier this month that they would not run in this fall’s municipal election.
Mayors Alanna Hnatiw and Barry Turner paid tribute to Shaw’s, Tighe’s, and Giffin’s time in office during the Sept. 14 county and town council meetings — the last such meetings before the election.
The Gazette asked Giffin, Shaw, and Tighe if they wanted to reflect on their time in office.
Giffin: ready to retire
Giffin, 68, said he was stepping out of office after one term to enjoy retirement with his family.
“I ran for election because I had a number of things I was concerned about,” he said — specifically the town’s finances and economic development department — and he felt those concerns had been addressed.
Giffin said he used his time in office to push for greater fiscal accountability from administration and the Morinville Library. He also got the town to bring in an asset management plan, which would ensure it had the cash and training on hand to maintain trails and other assets.
Giffin said he is still concerned about the town’s supply of industrial land, as he was unable to convince council to seek more of it.
“I know we have an industrial park, but frankly, it’s full,” he explained, with no space for any new major agri-business operations.
“I feel we need to annex industrial land.”
While many candidates, himself included, say town council should be run more like a business, Giffin said he was surprised to learn that doing so is impossible. You can’t make snap decisions in the public sector as you do in business because you need to consult the public.
“Decisions are more of a negotiation than they are in private industry,” he said, and typically don’t come with the same urgency.
While he encouraged people to run for office, Giffin advised anyone who did to be prepared to do more work than they expect.
"Many people have called this a part-time job. It’s only part time if you limit it.”
In an email, Giffin said he hopes future councils will focus more on local jobs to improve its non-residential tax base.
Shaw: back to the ranch
Shaw issued a press release on her 14 years as Division 6 councillor.
“There were plenty of tough calls over my 14 years on council,” she said.
“It was not always an easy job, but I always tried to be the voice for residents by being open and honest and responding to their concerns.”
Shaw said she had met some amazing people in office and had always been an advocate for transparency and good governance.
She said the county had greatly improved its service delivery and efficiency in the last 14 years, particularly with the addition of on-call firefighters to its emergency services department, and bolstered its economy through the industrialization of Alberta’s Industrial Heartland region, which she is proud to have helped promote as a first-class option for chemical and petrochemical investment.
In addition to volunteering and spending time with her family, Shaw said she plans to keep raising Simmental X Angus cattle on her farm with her husband Stuart once she leaves office.
“Sturgeon County can have a bright future with the right leadership at the helm,” she said, especially if those leaders focus on transparency, good governance, and finding the right balance of development to ensure a good quality of life for county residents.
Shaw encourages voters to “do their homework” and explore issues in their community before they head to the polls Oct. 18.
Tighe: proud of flat tax rate
In an email, Tighe said he appreciated the chance to represent Division 5 for the past two terms, and is proud of having helped bring about many road improvements and several zero-per-cent tax increases.
“During my time as councillor, I strived to have our county be more efficient, and while many improvements were made, I believe there is still room for advancement in our region,” he said.
Tighe said he plans to spend more time with his family once he leaves office, but will stay involved with his community.