ATHABASCA – It has been a tumultuous four years to be in municipal government, but with one term on Athabasca town council now under her belt, Ida Edwards is hoping to do it all over again.
The lifelong Athabasca resident and music teacher was the first incumbent councillor to submit her nomination package for the Oct. 18 election and is hoping the experience she has gained will help her towards another victory.
“We started with a municipal review and we had 29 items to go through, and it took about a year-and-a-half. So, by the end of 2019, it was starting to feel like, ‘Wow, we've got this going on.’ And then COVID hit, and it turned the world upside-down,” Edwards said in a Sept. 3 interview.
The region has come a long way since she was a child, and the pandemic has shown how our individual and community circle of influence has grown to the point that international and national issues are having an impact on everyone, on a daily basis, even those in small town Alberta. For Edwards, it’s an opportunity to take advantage of being able to connect not only to our neighbours, but to use the shared knowledge of others to find solutions to our biggest problems.
“We're dealing with a whole different aspect of how we're going to blend our lives together again. How we're going to mix as populations, how we're going to protect the health of our young children, because that's becoming a huge concern, and our seniors are actually impacted in ways that we never even appreciated — this isolation and loneliness is now a high priority,” she said.
Learning to prioritize and pivot as necessary was a big part of the learning curve in her first term, and taking that even further will be a big part of her approach if she is elected again in October.
“If the people say ‘Yes, come back to council,’ it'll get re-honed there. And we're going to be learning new things at a municipal level and best practices and how to maintain life's essential things in a whole new world,” she said.
Being a representative on council is all about building consensus. As a musician, Edwards sees it being a lot like an orchestra.
“When you're in an orchestra and you're playing with a group of people, we're all doing different things, but we create an orchestral sound together,” she said. “That's what I see being on council. I have a role to play and learning that role and sticking in the parameters of that role is important.
Making Athabasca a more welcoming place is also going to be high on Edwards’ list for a new term — that is something she sees as key to supporting economic growth, creating jobs in the community and preparing for a prosperous future.
“That's part of the problem with AU too, because we've had lots of people come who were talented and really great people, but they don't see their community in this town,” she said. “And that's one of the things I'd like to work on is that that sense of wherever you come from in the world, I would want you to feel this could be your town.”