MELFORT — With the closing of the nomination deadline, members of the Melfort community have the choice of six councillors and their mayor.
Ten people have put their names in the running for council seats, while the mayoral race will see incumbent Rick Lang and former councillor Glenn George fighting for the top spot.
Here is what they have to say about their race for the council table.
Lang said he is still enjoying the job and his past eight years as mayor and the nine years as a Melfort city councillor before that has led to some invaluable experience and connections. The City of Melfort has accomplished a lot in Lang’s last eight years of council, he said, and there are still plenty of issues that he would like to have a hand in.
“I know what we're capable of and what we're not capable of or I know how to make sure that we are capable of certain things that we need to make happen. All of that experience combined with the fact that my office door has always been open to the public...there’s a lot that’s been accomplished.”
Being a councillor first was an important precursor to running for mayor, he said, since it prepared him for the responsibilities of the council. During his first mayoral term there were a lot of green councillors at the table, he said, but this hadn’t stalled the City of Melfort from getting things done. While he does credit some of this to an excellent administration, he also hopes that he is attributed to that with his leadership at the council helm as well.
Glenn George has been a city councillor for the past 11 years, has served three terms, and first moved to Melfort when he was in high school. Now he is seeking election for mayor of Melfort, he said, since Lang has been in the seat long enough.
George moved to Melfort with his family when he was still in high school, he said, and learned fiscal responsibility and budgeting from work with his dad who had an accounting firm. After spending some time working in Saskatoon, George moved back to Melfort where he has owned the Home Hardware for the past 30 years.
City council is not a one issue job, which is why he has grown to enjoy the work they do as the city council.
“Most people when they run have one issue and they run on that issue. Once they get there they find out that it's just one small part of a huge puzzle. They can either adapt or not and I adapted and I quite liked this job.”
Darryl Benson will again be running for council for a second term saying that he wants to see some continuity on council.
Over the next four years if elected, Benson wants to see as much infrastructure work done as they can complete, especially when it comes to reducing water leaks across the city, which has cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, Benson said. Reducing that number and keeping tax increases low or non-existent would help residents, he said.
When Benson first ran in 2016, he saw a lot of wants being bought by the city instead of needs, which is why he wanted a seat at the decision making table. After the last four years in the council chamber, he is proud that they have been able to make minimal tax increases and the work being done on sidewalks and street paving.
With COVID having a huge impact on the economy, Benson said he can see the next year being a rollercoaster ride for residents and businesses.
As a city council, they need to be able to weather that storm.
“I just would like to pull the reins back a little bit on spending and just make sure that the city stays in a good financial position.”
Brian Enge will have his name on the ballot again following a defeat in the 2016 election when he was an incumbent. Enge was seventh in the race only by a small margin of votes so he wanted to try again for getting one of those six council seats.
Having lived in Melfort the majority of his life, 40 out of 42 years, he said, he knew that he wanted to raise his family here.
“We love this city. We love what it provides for us. And I feel it's very important for us to give back to the community to in some type of service volunteerism...this is one of the most well rounded, beautiful cities in this entire province.”
As a volunteer with the Melfort Housing Authority, Enge sees firsthand the impact that COVID-19 has had on homelessness and the vulnerable people in Melfort. Things like maintaining tax rates and lobbying for government should be automatically part of a councillor’s job, he said, so using those as campaign promises can be misleading, he said.
He will not make promises he cannot keep, he said, but he will promise the people of Melfort that he will work hard, do the research, and talk to citizens directly about what fair decision making looks like.
“I feel that as a politician, if you stand up there and make promises without having the ability to back it up 100 per cent, those should never be promises made.”
Tim Hoenmans will be running again for his seat at the Melfort council. He enjoys being part of the decision-making process and trying to make positive changes to his community.
There is a demand for project spending across the country, he said, and with infrastructure deficits cause such a demand for municipal, provincial, and federal funding, Hoenmans wants to make sure Melfort can get some of their projects completed.
“I'm hoping that our proposals to really shore up our sewage, water, sidewalks, and pavement gets a solid second look and hopefully we can leverage those partnerships with the upper level of the government to get caught up on some of the infrastructure deficit we have in Melfort.”
There is some unfinished business that Hoenmans would like to take care of, especially from an infrastructure perspective, before stepping away from the table, he said, but Melfort has a great team in place to make that happen.
“We have a great team in place with our administration. They just do a fantastic job and we're lucky enough to be there to help guide the ship, but they carry their weight day in and day out.”
Being able to work and make decisions for the greater good of Melfort residents has been a highlight for Hoenmans and one he wants to continue.
Cam Lee, a former radio broadcaster, has put his name down as one of the nominees that Melfort residents can vote for this fall to join council.
Lee, who grew up in Melfort, worked in the news department at CJVR for 18 years, with 15 years as news director.
“As a reporter, I attended many council meetings and politics always interested me, so I thought why not throw my hat in the race,” Lee asked. “I got a little bit of free time so I thought I’d check it out.”
Lee said he wants to keep council on the direction it’s going, with a continued focus on lobbying the provincial and federal government for funding to repair the city’s damaged water lines.
The city’s water loss problem through broken lines continues to be an issue, costing the city thousands annually.
“Once that’s done, of course, repairing some of the roads that are over top of the lines that need to be resurfaced – that’s one of my goals.”
Another one of Lee’s goals is to attract new businesses and retain current businesses through maintaining lower taxes. He also said he intends to examine the possibility of “lowering some of the red tape” on construction of homes and businesses.
“I know a few contractors in the community who would like to get going on projects and stuff, and it takes a while. I’d like to see that process reduced, as far as timelines go,” he said.
“Obviously I haven’t been behind the scenes, perhaps there is a reason why it takes a little while.”
Trent Mitchell was first elected in 2016 and will be seeking his second term in the upcoming election. Being a part of the city council, they have done some good work that he would like to continue, he said.
“Especially the last two years we've been able to keep taxes you know under two and a half percent increase so comparatively quite low compared to other cities in the province.”
The Spruce Haven Development and the Broadway and Saskatchewan Drive resurfacing has made for two council projects that Mitchell is most proud of, he said.
There’s a lot of work involved in having a seat on city council, he said, but it can be a very rewarding experience. With his ongoing work as
Going into the next council, Mitchell wants to see the city continue their work on the infrastructure deficit and continue to complete projects throughout the city as well as recreational projects that will attract families to the city.
“We have quite a bit of water loss. So we focus on kind of that freshwater wastewater initiatives, then that also allows us to focus on the road to cover them. There's no point in paving the roads until we fix the infrastructure under the ground. That's the key.”
As a city councillor, Mitchell said he is not afraid to challenge administration and is approachable and forthcoming. If one resident has a question, he is not surprised to see other residents have the same question so he wants people to come talk to them about city issues.
Tara Muntain, the owner of TJ's Pizza in Melfort, has announced her candidacy for a seat at city council at November’s municipal election.
Muntain was a member of Melfort Business Revitalization Corporation (MBRC) since conception about five years ago, but recently handed in her resignation to focus on her election campaign. She has been the owner of TJ’s Pizza since 2009.
Muntain said the reason she wanted to join council is to serve her community better.
“I definitely want to bring awareness of all areas of our city onto the council scene. It’s always a good thing to have representation from all sectors,” she said.
“I love Melfort as a community, I don’t think that’s any big secret.”
As councilor, Muntain said she can’t promise any big changes, but does intend to listen to constituents, look into their concerns and analyze what’s happening behind the scenes.
“For a nominee, or for someone running on city council to say, ‘I’m going to go in there and make huge changes, and I’m going to change this.’ That’s not how things happen,” Muntain said.
“You need to go in, you need to analyze what’s happening, figure out if it’s not going properly, talk to your city staff members and have them fix what’s going on.”
Muntain can be reached by her campaign email at email@example.com or her Facebook page “Tara Muntain.”
“I did start a Facebook page and a separate email just to be able to facilitate anything anybody wants to bring to me that they think should be addressed or looked at, because I know that’s really important to have that communication.”
Running for Melfort city council again was not hard for April Phillips. Her love of Melfort has kept her at the council table for the past eight years so potentially serving for another four was an easy decision.
“I just wanted, if given the opportunity, to continue to [serve Melfort]. I feel that the experience that I have is an asset and I'm excited and willing to go another four years.”
In her time with city council, Phillips said she has served as the Legislation and Finance chair and the Community Service chair. She is most proud of the work they have done as a team to improve the lives of citizens. They have continually worked on their infrastructure deficit, which is not something unique to the City of Melfort.
“That's something that I think every community is struggling with. We've done a lot of sidewalk replacements the last couple of years, essential sidewalks...We have a long way to go but I believe we’re heading in the right direction.”
Phillips has been fortunate enough to live, work, and raise her family in Melfort over the last 32 years and she couldn’t have picked a better place to do that, she said.
We all have challenges, she said, but the city needs people who are willing to step up and come to the table. But people need the city to hold themselves to a high standard.
‘As a council, you need to be focused and you need to be accountable, but if you love your city and you're willing to work for the citizens then that's the reason to run.”
Phillips is committed to improving the quality of life in Melfort and would be honoured if people chose her for another term of doing so.
With times being so uncertain, Wade Rogers believes this is the perfect time to step up to the council table. As a senior crown prosecutor, Rogers knows that he has the skills to make decisions that will benefit and help the people of Melfort.
“I have some skills that can certainly assist the citizens of Melfort, particularly with respect to negotiation, particularly in negotiating with other levels of government for grants and things of that nature.”
Running for an election during the time of COVID-19, Rogers said he wants be a part of the city council team and help people get through the tough times. More can be done to help local businesses stay afloat. To do that, Rogers suggests a two year freeze on property tax.
“I anticipate that businesses are going to try to stay afloat the best they can but there's probably going to be reduced staff, reduced hours and things like that. So we could have reduced incomes over the next short term. We have to have policies that will assist in easing the strain on the residents and not breaking your back with excessive taxation and regulation.”
Since moving to Melfort in 2013, Rogers has also put his training with the armed forces to good use as an army reservist, a member of the Royal Canadian Legion, and a commissioned officer with 171 Melfort Phoenix Air Cadet Squadron.
“Since 2015…, I've been assisting with developing youth to be good citizens and future leaders of the community and of the country.”
Rogers will be sending out mailers to introduce himself to the community and will be participating with other candidates in the candidate forum later in the month.
Potential city councillor Don Signori has big dreams for the City of Melfort. Now with being the council ballot, he is ready to make those dreams a reality.
“I'm a strong advocate for shopping locally. I think that, and tourism, are tremendously important. I believe that we can reach a goal of 10,000 population within this decade and to provide opportunities for not only our children, but our grandchildren moving forward.”
Signori is passionate about growth in his community, he said, and while he has seen a lot of steps forward in his 40 years of living in Melfort, he has seen more steps backwards.
“We do have a good council, they just need an extra little bit of courage and strength.”
Infrastructure is suffering, he said, but that is not going to take a year or two to fix. And while that is important, other aspects of the city cannot be sacrificed in order to solve the infrastructure problem, said Signori.
Running for mayor in the last election, Signori said he didn’t have a strong platform. Now as a councillor, he wants the opportunity to stand strong for the city, he said.
While Signori is not able to go door to door, he has had a previous neck and back injury that will keep him from doing so, he will be stuffing every post office box in Melfort with the campaign literature. More importantly, he wants people to get out and vote.
“The last time we had a decent turnout was 1988 that we had 63 per cent and I'd like to get 70 per cent this time. It's so important so we know what the public wants. We need a large turnout.”
Doug Terry will once again be running for his seat at the council table. As one of the veteran councillors, first elected in 1997 and then re-elected in 2016 after a four-year gap, Terry still sees himself as the mentor for some of the newer councillors. It’s a sharp learning curve, he said, and some people come into the race not knowing all the rules of council.
“I'm the old guy in council and I bring some history and some procedure and that kind of thing to council. They use me in my capacity and in the right committees.”
Some residents take a lot of the aspects of city living for granted, he said, like having a working street light or driving on a freshly paved street. Being on council, you get to know the pros and cons of running a city, he said.
Terry gained a lot of knowledge of how council works during his 40 years as a public health officer, he said.
“I inspected everybody's water plant, their sewage waste grounds, everything in the community concerning public health. I had a pretty good understanding of infrastructure and the way that the companies work.”
Terry has been retired for six years but still enjoys using his experience in the different city committees that he has participated in over the years.
Being a Vancouver transplant, Terry knows a lot of people in the same position where Melfort was just supposed to be a jumping off point, but something made them stay for decades.
“I know a lot of people come here and don't leave. Teachers and police officers and government workers, they transfer here and they start over here.”
Melfort is a “pretty nice community. It's got a lot going for it,” he said, and he wants to continue working on balancing the many important aspects of the community.
—Written with files from Jessica R. Durling, Humboldt Journal