Candidates out the gate

The first few candidates in the upcoming municipal elections are out the gate in Fort McMurray, the most recent being former MLA and Minister Don Scott; he will be on the ballot as a mayoralty candidate.  Jeff Peddle and Verna Murphy have both declared in Ward One of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.  Soon, others will follow, and the slate of names will begin to form.

There is much speculation as to which of the current councillors will run to keep their jobs or take a run for the Mayor's chair.  Make no mistake about it, even at the municipal level, politics is alive and well.  Strategies are in play, even now, six months before the actual election period.

Because of the tumultuous events of the past few years, including the more recents challenges of an economic downturn and a horrific fire, there appears to be a desire for change.  This observation is strictly gleaned from looking at social media and listening to citizens.  Frankly, this sentiment seems to pop up at the end of every mandate.  It certainly happened in 2013, as several of us were not given a vote of confidence.  It happened in 2010, after a particularly fractious council term.  It is likely going to be a rough ride for incumbents when the election kicks into high gear in late summer and early fall.

I'm of the mind that people who step forward - incumbents, newbies or returnees - are doing so from a place of sincerity and an authentic desire to serve.  There is very little glory when you get in the trenches and start to work through real issues, debates, controversy and challenges.  It takes people of strong character and sold grit to muscle through the realities of municipal government service.

In almost every major decision you make, you will have folks who slap you on the back and declare you a champion of the people and a group of others who will say you are a complete buffoon.  It is a rare day in public service when you make a tough decision that is universally lauded.

I don't say any of this to dissuade potential candidates, rather to prepare them.  If you have the courage of your convictions to put your name on a ballot, you deserve to know what you're getting into.  As any member of this current council will likely tell you that, while it is important work and they were honoured to serve, it wasn't easy.

I think that another truth is that nothing is as clear cut as it might seem from the outside.  Arm chair quarterback bemoan decisions that were made by this council and the ones that preceded it.  However, the reasons that decisions were made - be they good, bad or otherwise - are far more complex than at first blush.

I respect and honour every single person who will step forward to serve.  Your community needs your passion, ideas and energy.  Give it everything you've got and enjoy the race to the finish.

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