Thomas to stand for re-election
It is with great excitement that I formally announce my intention to stand for re-election as a Councillor in Ward 1 of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.
It has been an honour to serve with this "dream team" of dedicated community champions. Their work ethic, professionalism and intention to work together to create a balanced future with opportunity for all has allowed us to make tremendous progress in the last three years. But, the work is not done.
I love the Winston Churchill quote that CAO Glen Laubenstein digs out from time to time: "Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."
Through the voices of thousands of our residents reflected in the award-winning Municipal Development Plan, we have the strength of a guiding document that we unanimously endorsed in this term. The dramatic move to re-imagine and redesign our City Centre - though not without its controversy - is moving forward, as is the Snye remediation program and the amazing development of our waterfront, all the way from MacDonald Island to the Horse Pasture lands east of Waterways. The Shell Place expansion, birthed and funded during this term, is well on the way to its successful completion in late 2014, enhancing what already is, according to Alan Doyle of Great Big Sea, "the single greatest civic accomplishment" he has ever seen.
We have had some wins, a few set-backs, and a number of outright disasters including the Penhorwood Condominium evacuations and the recent flooding caused by historic levels on the Hangingstone River. We also continue to struggle with the never-ending quest to get an aging in place facility built at Willow Square. That issue is particularly frustrating as several promises have been broken, hopes have been dashed, and trust severely damaged. The land transfer issue, currently being held up by CMHC, needs to be expedited and the provincial government needs to get onside with us about the downtown location being the site that is in the best interests (and desires) of our seniors.
Why do I want to do a second term? First of all, because it's been fun - one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Secondly, because the work is not done. We've made strong progress on a number of fronts, but heavy lifting lies ahead as we continue to work with the other orders of government to improve our transportation nightmares, land issues, and regional development as the oil sands industry continues to grow and change.
I began my first term on council as a marketing and communications professional working for Keyano College and as President as Events Wood Buffalo. I end the term as the interim director of Arts Council Wood Buffalo, on a secondment from Keyano College, and as a member of the Premier's Council on Culture. In both my professional and personal life, I continue to be passionate about the arts, culture, diversity and festivity, and the roles they play in building a stronger more dynamic community and region.
Over the last three years I have done my best to consistently communicate in council chambers, with municipal administration, through my social media channels, in the media, in person, and through my articles, primarily located on this blog, though not exclusively. Once in awhile, my choice to add background and clarity about certain issues has inspired vigorous debate and discussion in the community. I don't apologize for it, as debate and discussion are important. I will continue sharing perspectives and insights, always being careful to do so within the scope of what is appropriate as an elected official.
I've enjoyed many citizen interactions and enquiries in this term. Helping achieve a positive outcome for all concerned has been very rewarding. I will continue to be a bridge, working across organizations and with citizens to innovate, collaborate and explore what is possible.
I'm so grateful for having had the honour to serve the people of Wood Buffalo as a councillor. I'm also grateful to the wonderful people who work with the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. I have had nothing but positive interactions with these talented, dedicated and passionate professionals. I am deeply indebted to my council colleagues and Mayor Blake for their support and mentorship. It has been a dream for me to be a part of this team.
Finally, and most importantly, my love and thanks to my family for allowing me to do this. They have been so supportive, encouraging, and at times, forgiving for the number of nights I am away from home. I couldn't do it without them. They are my rocks!
If you have any questions feel free to call me at 780-881-3752 or send me a tweet @rvthomas67. I'll be updating my website (www.russellthomas.ca) and publishing a campaign Facebook page (www.facebook.com/councillorrussellthomas) shortly. I'm also going to be leveraging the skills of my sons Dylan and Ben to do an "Ask Russell" video series. I will candidly answer questions that get submitted throughout the campaign. I may not get to all of them, but I will do my best. I look forward to tackling some of the hard questions that will inevitably come my way.