ATHABASCA – Roger Morrill says he still has more to give to the community.
His name likely means a lot of things to a lot of different people in Athabasca — some may know him as the successful dentist, who has been operating in the community for 40 years; some will know him as the former mayor who lost his seat in the 2017 municipal election, along with most of his council; some will just know him as Roger from back in the day — however you know him, the life-long resident hopes voters will consider his name when you see it on the ballot for Town of Athabasca councillor Oct. 18.
Looking back to why he ran for council in the first place nearly a decade ago, his reasons haven’t changed all that much, he said in a Sept. 29 interview. It has always been about serving the community and leading it in a direction where it can prosper and grow.
“Everybody does different things in their communities as a way of giving back and I thought this would be my approach, so I started doing this,” Morrill said. “My intention was to go in and offer what guidance I could to a community that's has been so good to me and my family.”
And while voters may have shown him the door in the 2017 four-person mayoral race, he says he’s proud of what the councils he led accomplished, and that the town is now seeing some of the fruit of their labours.
“They were not afraid to tackle the hard issues and make hard decisions. You can argue the last time on council was more controversial, but there were more decisions, big decisions, involving a new school and swimming pool,” he said. “Again, I was very proud of those councils and how they did not shrink away from making those decisions. It wasn't just talk, talk, talk, they got on to doing things.”
As for this time around, Morrill is hearing concerns from the community and seeing them himself.
“I just think we're facing serious economic and social issues right now and I’m also hearing concerns surfacing over the lack of growth and new developments happening here,” he said.
Municipal infrastructure is one area that requires careful attention, so replacement plans need to be made years in advance to have a proper grasp on when infrastructure is nearing the end of its functional life — something Morrill is well aware of as he was on council when the town hired an engineering firm to complete what is known as the Tigert Report.
The company “defined and prioritized different things in our community that needed to be done in order to avoid some of the politicking that goes into making some of these decisions. For instance, how do you decide whether you pave Road A, B or C? Or how do you upgrade sewer A, B or C? Hopefully it's something that councils for the future could take a look at and help with their decision-making process,” he said.
That planning is crucial, as is taking the initiative to see problems through to their solutions and to involve the people in the community to make the community a better place for everyone.
“I live here by choice. Nobody forces me to live here. This is a great community, but there's ways we can improve it though and we have to keep trying to improve because the status quo does not work with communities,” Morrill said.