ATHABASCA — Three women – Doris Splane, Penny Stewart, and Christi Bilsky – will leave Athabasca County council and three women have already been acclaimed to fill their seats.
In Division 3, Ashtin Anderson is taking over from Splane who decided to step away from politics, as did Kevin Haines in Division 5 which made room for Tracy Holland to fill the seat and when Warren Griffin resigned from council to become CAO in Boyle, Camille Wallach put her name in.
“I am honoured to soon be starting the role of councillor (for) Division 5 - Athabasca East and look forward to serving our community,” Holland said in an e-mail Sept. 26. “Over the last decade or more, I have taken an interest in the short-term and long-term impacts, as well as the implications of each decision, policy and bylaw made by municipal councils.”
Holland added being involved in such a diverse and wide range of services to the community is important to her not only to learn more, but to gain a deeper understanding of the whole region to address the needs from the young right through to those who are retired.
“My list of personal goals for being on council is growing,” said Holland. “Currently my top five goals are: within three months of the municipal election council will need to identify and prioritize the issues and projects we face. My goal is to learn the status of the current list as soon as possible in addition to encouraging ratepayers and stakeholders to provide their input for council to consider; increase public engagement and participation; financial stewardship; responsible development; balanced approach to policy and bylaw making.”
Wallach, however, was prepared to run, being the first candidate to submit her papers and had previously granted an interview with the Athabasca Advocate.
“I have a huge passion for business, and I love to see people grow and thrive,” she said in an interview Sept. 2. “So, how do we bring in new business to the community? And how do we attract young people?”
Wallach was raised on her parents’ farm in the division she is representing and went to school in Athabasca. After graduating she moved to Edmonton, where she operated a thriving mobile massage business until the COVID-19 pandemic stalled the growth of her business, so she returned in 2020.
She said she has her eye on the Tourism and Economic Development (TED) committee hoping to make the region more attractive for all sizes of business but knows infrastructure, like reliable Internet, needs to come with them.
Wallach said in her interview she increasingly meets new residents, many of whom are employed but working remotely from Athabasca County making the need for reliable mobile and broadband services even more crucial.
“Growth in the county is good for the town, and growth in town is good for the county,” she said.
In Division 3 around Boyle, Anderson was also acclaimed to the role, taking over from Splane who spent 20 years representing ratepayers as both councillor and as reeve.
Anderson granted an interview Sept. 18 and two days later was acclaimed, but said she put her name in after being encouraged to run and was prepared to campaign.
“Being born and raised here, I thought I had some value to offer as a councillor,” Anderson said. “But actually, over the last year or so I've also had other people approach me saying, ‘You should run; that'd be a good position for you.’”
She has a background in transportation infrastructure and has been the president of the Boyle Ag Society for five years as well as sitting on the Boyle Legion board.
“Doris had decided not to put her name back in this year; 20 years was enough as a councillor,” she said. “Those are big shoes to fill, but I'm willing to give it a shot. It's a little scary, but I think I have a lot of value to offer, and it'll be a huge learning experience.”
She added she’s looking forward to meeting a wide variety of people with different experiences and viewpoints to work together to bring value to the region as a whole, but she’s not sitting back waiting to be sworn-in either.
“Even if I'm the only one; if I'm the only candidate in this area, it's still important to reach out to constituents and let them know that who I am so that they feel comfortable to approach me if they have concerns, issues, or comments.”
With files from Chris Zwick.