ATHABASCA — Although it will be a few years, Keith Plowman and wife Kelly have already decided Athabasca is where they will retire.
And because of that decision Plowman has decided to enter into the world of municipal politics, specifically in Athabasca County's Division 4, bringing his experience and connections from other boards and committees to the table.
“I love the area; I'm an outdoorsman (and) just all the different stuff that there is to do,” he said in a Sept. 8 interview. "I'm very community-minded. I've sort of been on the periphery of politics and political stuff for a long time; I serve on lots of different boards and committees across the province.”
Plowman is on boards for Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock MLA Glenn van Dijken, and is the president of the Fort McMurray Construction Association.
“I think municipal politics affects people the most," he said. “The further you get up the line as you get into provincial politics, then you're a little bit removed from people and then federal politics basically all you do is collect people's money. So, I think there's a real distaste in politics right now. And I thought I'd like to be involved where it's closest to the people and where you can make the biggest difference.”
He has put a lot of thought into how to move out of the pandemic and recover economically too, taking cues from U.S. president Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, specifically the organization and funding of capital projects like roads, bridges, buildings and even the Hoover Dam to put people back to work.
“In times of downtime, then that's when you put your money into the infrastructure,” said Plowman. “It gets people to work and once they're working and they're prosperous, then that money flows back to other things just naturally.”
Plowman notes recovery won’t be simply from the pandemic, but the latest agriculture disaster as well.
“Even hay prices – if you can get hay – the prices are skyrocketing. It is a real crisis for a lot of our farmers,” he said.
He’s not one to be overwhelmed by problems either with his philosophy of always finding a solution.
“I believe that in every single circumstance, there is a solution that you can get to so, I work toward that," said Plowman. “If you're faced with a problem a lot of people just throw up their arms or get angry or do whatever, no, you just solve the problem. That's just what you have to do.”
Though the solution may not be the one everyone wants, he added, noting specifically the issue of keeping Athabasca University jobs in Athabasca.
“Hopefully, we can figure out a way to keep it here and, again, I'm optimistic that there is a solution. It may not be the solution that everyone wants, but there's probably a middle ground somewhere, but there is going to be some challenges that we're going to have to face,” he said.
His other passion projects if elected are the state of the highways and the bridge on Highway 813 over the Athabasca River.
“For whatever reason, it seems like our region – other than the bridge announcement three or four years ago or five years ago and then it never happened – we need to try and figure out where this is going and why the provincial government has been silent on our region,” said Plowman. “Why? Why are there no other improvements happening?”