BARRHEAD - Though she has her own ideas about issues that need to be addressed in the municipality, County of Barrhead Division 1 candidate Debra Boyle says she wants to be in frequent contact with ratepayers to hear their concerns and apprise them of council activities if she is elected.
“To me the most important thing in having someone represent you in council is having them be your voice and having a clear understanding of what is happening,” said Boyle, who is challenging incumbent Doug Drozd.
Boyle lives in the vicinity of Lac La Nonne, where she moved with her husband and two children about 16 years ago from Calgary. The purpose of that move, she said, was to get her children enrolled in a small-town education system.
“It was a very big leap of faith, and we’re very happy that we did,” Boyle added.
For about six years, she was the manager at the Reflections Hair Salon in Barrhead, which was forced to close its doors permanently when the COVID pandemic hit.
“It was a little bit devastating, because we were trying very hard to make a go of things,” she said, adding that they were not the only business in Barrhead that has struggled during the pandemic.
While she still visits a few senior clients who don’t like going out due to the threat of COVID-19, Boyle is semi-retired these days and spends much of her time on her grandchildren.
A complete newcomer to municipal politics, Boyle said she had thought about entering the political arena before but felt she didn’t have the time to devote to being a councillor.
Now she has that time, as well as “a better handle” on what people are looking for and what the issues are locally, she said.
Boyle said she has heard residents voice concerns about the quality of local lakes and people in the farming community express feelings of helplessness as they look for whatever help they can receive.
She said she has also heard people express worry about the continued operation of small rural schools.
That said, she feels her goal as a councillor would be to listen to the issues that residents bring forward and focus on those concerns.
In fact, her hope is to set up some kind of monthly communication with constituents — perhaps over e-mail or via Zoom — to let them know what the county is doing and to hear their input.
“Until you can really get in there and see what the most important and most relevant issues are, I can only prioritize what I’ve heard from some people in this area,” she said.
“I certainly can’t say that Doug Drozd has done a bad job, because I know of a few things that he’s done. But none of the things that he has addressed so far have really done anything to affect what I am hearing.”
Boyle noted she recognizes that there is only so much that a county councillor can do. However, she does have some experience with fundraising from her time as a teeball coach and a team manager for fun hockey, and perhaps that can be an avenue to, say, helping local schools with their finances.
She also recognizes that she would need some time to familiarize herself with the position.
“Hopefully my fellow councillors will help me along the way on certain things, but I have to get there first,” she said.