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Council appoints 52 residents to next year's civic committees

Although a total of 89 residents applied, the city only had 52 vacant seats across all 10 civic committees heading into next year.

On Tuesday St. Albert city council appointed 52 residents to serve on the city's civic committees next year.

Although a total of 89 residents applied, the city only had about 52 vacant seats across all 10 civic committees heading into 2024.

The city's civic committees, such as the Policing Committee, Environmental Advisory Committee (EAC), and the Community Services Advisory Committee (CSAC), are designed to give residents an opportunity to have direct impacts on city decision making regarding specific topics.

Most committees are made up entirely of residents with one member of council being appointed to the committee in a non-voting capacity, however, multiple committees don't have any council representation, such as the library board.

All 10 of the city's civic committees will have new members for the 2024 calendar year.

“Congratulations to the various people that were either appointed or reappointed to a committee,” Mayor Cathy Heron said on Tuesday. “Council, obviously, really appreciates the commitment and time that you take to give us good advice.”

The Arts Development Advisory Committee (ADAC), which is responsible for providing council with recommendations and advice on policy and projects related to public art, will have six new members. ADAC meets once per month, and is also responsible for reviewing applications for the city's Young Artists Legacy Award program, which provides young artists with financial assistance so that they can attend educational opportunities or art events.

The CSAC, which has many responsibilities including reviewing applications for the Community Events Grant and the Outside Agency Grant, will have four new members next year.

The CSAC also meets once per month, and nine residents served on the committee this year.

The committee with the most changeover heading into next year is the Youth Advisory Committee (YAC), which will have 15 new members next year.

Although the YAC was formed to provide council with a youth perspective on city issues and projects, council considered disbanding the committee earlier this year as a result of the committee being under-utilized by council. 

Rather than disbanding the YAC, council voted in June to accept the committee's recommendations about its own future, namely that council needs to refer at least two items per year to the committee for review.

City spokesperson Kathy deJong said in an email that the names of those appointed to the committees will be released publicaly once all appointees are notified.

City to study processes

On Tuesday council also passed a motion put forward by Coun. Natalie Joly that directs city staff to study the processes used by other municipalities to recruit and onboard residents for civic committees, and provide a report to council with any recommendations to improve St. Albert's own process.

Currently, when St. Albert residents apply to serve on civic committees, council spends a full day interviewing applicants to determine whether or not their previous professional and volunteer experience is a good fit for the committee they applied for.

“We don't have a process for ensuring that what applicants put on their applications is true,” Joly said on Tuesday. “Some of these committees deal with really sensitive information, CSAC is an example of that but also others, [and] there's no requirement for volunteers to sign privacy agreements so that was of concern to me.”

“This is an opportunity to improve our process to reduce risk, and to make sure that we're continuing to see great outcomes.”

Marta Caufield, the city's director of legal and legislative services, told council that one outcome of city staff's study could be the development of a preliminary vetting process or “skills assessment” that applicants would go through before being interview by council.

“I think there is an opportunity to take a step [back] and review our practices and suggest some improvements,” Caufield said. “I think it would be worthwhile.”

Coun. Shelley Biermanski, who was the sole member of council to vote against Joly's motion, said during debate that she was concerned a vetting process may be a barrier to residents serving on civic committees.

“The whole point of committees is to get that public say,” Biermanski said. “If people were vetted too much by administration it would probably discourage people in the process too because it is a volunteer position.”

“I think we'd be messing with a good thing trying to stop people from coming forward.”

Coun. Wes Brodhead said he thought it would be premature for council to guess what administration might bring forward as a result of the study, and that council shouldn't pass up an opportunity to improve processes.

“I think this body of work is well worth expending the administration time to go out and see what's out in other municipalities ... in terms of what best practice might be,” he said. “I think the work is well worth it, and I'd like to see what comes out of that work.”

Administration was given until June of next year to complete the report.

Jack Farrell

About the Author: Jack Farrell

Jack Farrell joined the St. Albert Gazette in May, 2022.
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