ATHABASCA — It is an important job and one where a lot of people will complain about the person holding it, no matter who they are, but it can be quite rewarding as one now-former Athabasca County councillor found out during nearly a decade-and-a-half of service.
The Oct. 18 municipal election brought a lot of changes to the political landscape across the province and after deciding not to run for council this time around Kevin Haines took some time to reflect on the past 14 years.
“Way back in the beginning, I wanted to see improvements to the roads, but also, I had an interest,” Haines said in a recent interview. “Over the years I had known a couple of county councillors, one in particular I got to know very well was Berkley Ferguson. He was on council for a long time and so I would talk to him quite often, and it sparked an interest in me. And then later, a neighbour of mine was on council – Charlie Ashbey – and so I got to talk to him quite a bit as well.”
Ashbey went on to become chief administrative officer (CAO) of the Village of Boyle until illness sidelined him. He was recently replaced by another former Athabasca County councillor, Warren Griffin.
“I got to work with (Ashbey) for one term and he was great to work with,” he said.
As for the roads, Haines wanted to see more resources for the staff who he credited with keeping everything operational with minimal resources at the time.
“Maybe they didn't always have the tools to do it," said Haines. "There were a lot of roads that needed to be rebuilt; they needed shoulder pulls or they needed full reconstruction. We did a lot of that in my time.”
He added roads are always a work in progress and noted a good road today may become a bad road very quickly based on its usage.
Haines said some of his biggest and proudest accomplishments were the new Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) building, the Athabasca Regional Multiplex joint venture with the Town of Athabasca, improving the airport, guiding the municipality through the pandemic, and more.
"The council before me had made the decision to do it, but when I got on council, the process was started but it hadn't really been built yet – so we were there for the actual building of it and so that was quite the deal,” he said, referring to the Multiplex.
Haines is also proud of the work the Aspen Regional Water Services Commission has accomplished, from the regional waterline, to the newly installed intake pipe.
“The regional waterline; that process had been started, but it hadn't been built," he said.
He recalled the pipe, which runs south from the Town of Athabasca to Colinton, then east to Boyle where it turns north and goes up through Grassland to Wandering River, was a struggle to get in the ground.
“We kept being told no, no, it's not gonna happen, it's never going to happen and we ended up getting a meeting with the minister (of transportation), and he said, ‘I see no reason why we can't do that,’” said Haines. "And then the rest is history. And that happened to be at that time the province knew they would be twinning (Highway 63), so they actually fast-tracked us a little bit. It was interesting times back in those days.”
And just as he found things, Haines will be leaving a few items on the plate for the incoming council.
“I just decided it was time," Haines said. “It's hard because there's still lots of work to be done there but I thought it was time to just take a step back and let someone else take the reins and give it their best shot.”
Their best shot will include dealing with cuts and downloading from the provincial government, a reduction in grants, and more, all rolled up into recovering from a global economic recession.
“These are all the conversations that the next council is going to have to have,” he said. “I know I'm gonna miss it.”