The next Estevan city council definitely won’t be like one we’ve seen in the past.
It’s likely to be one of the most diverse councils in Estevan’s history. Three of the councillors (Travis Frank, Rebecca Foord and Kirsten Walliser) are under the age of 35. That’s likely a first.
There are also three female councillors (Foord, Walliser and Shelly Veroba). The last time there were three female council members was from 2006-2009.
And there are four newcomers, with Foord, Walliser, Lindsay Clark and Tony Sernick.
These new council members also represent different sectors from the community – health care, business and energy.
Nobody can accuse this council of being an old boys’ club, a complaint that we’ve heard about councils in the past.
They’re going to have a steep learning curve, but at least they have experienced members to help them out in Veroba, Frank and Mayor Roy Ludwig, who was elected for a third term as Estevan’s mayor.
(Ludwig has 26 years of municipal experience. And he’s had the longest tenure as a mayor since Harry Nicholson presided over the city in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s).
Despite all of the acrimony and the criticism that councils receive, we’re used to seeing the majority of council members carry over to the next term. The last time we had four new members on a council was in 2000.
So it’s definitely going to be an interesting council to watch over the next four years. It’s not going to be easy. They won’t always get along. We certainly hope they won’t always agree; respectful disagreements are a fundamental aspect of democracy, and an important part of a well-run council.
They all seem to have the best interests of the city at heart, although the definition of those best interests will be different.
And now that they’re on council, the hardest part begins: running the city.
Being on council always poses challenges. You have to deal with a variety of issues that come up.
The first task will be setting the city’s budget, and doing it during a pandemic that has affected the city’s bottom line. COVID-19 won’t be around forever, but it’s going to be a factor for at least the first few months of the year. It will affect revenues on everything from facility passes at the Estevan Leisure Centre to facility rentals at different city-owned sites.
The biggest issue, though, will be economic development in general. As we’ve stated before, Estevan is facing some pretty uncertain times due to the pending closure of Units 4 and 5 at the Boundary Dam Power Station.
We’ve seen some good ideas brought forward to address the lost jobs in the community, but there’s still a lot of things that need to be done to make these ideas happen.
Council will also have to decide whether or not to proceed with a third arena for Estevan, knowing that no matter what they do, a significant number of people in the community will be ticked off.
There are the perpetual issues such as property tax rates and utility rates and city beautification. Those never go away.
They’ll have to continue to press the provincial government for a new nursing home.
There was one disappointing development Monday: the lack of voter turnout. About 2,300 people showed up to vote. That would be a near-record low, especially in an election in which there was a mayoral vote.
It’s hard to say why. COVID isn’t an excuse; the city came up with plenty of opportunities for people to vote who are concerned about being out in public. It can’t be the weather; Estevan ducked the massive snowfalls that blasted other parts of the province.
Nobody should be happy with a voter turnout of 2,300.
And given the criticism levelled at council in the past, you have to wonder if some of those critics prefer to complain on social media and not try to create a change, or if maybe they live out of the city limits.
But we have our council. It looks to be a good council. And it’s definitely pretty unique by council standards.