WESTLOCK – Westlock County resident Stuart Fox-Robinson has put his name forward for Division 6 in this fall’s municipal election.
Fox-Robinson, who ran for the same seat in 2017 but lost to Fred Slobodian, who in turn resigned last November, said the county is lacking a long-range strategic plan which can help guide it in the years to come.
“I think Westlock County is a great place to live and I genuinely believe we can be much better than we are. But I do not believe that the residents interests have been well-reflected in council as a whole,” he said. “We must make decisions that are right for the majority of the resident, and we’ve got to be wise about where we’re spending our money. There are specific priorities in a municipality, and we have to ensure that those things are prioritized. But the biggest thing is, we don’t appear to have a long-range strategic plan for the county.”
Fox-Robinson, who has a degree in economics and has been CEO of Wildrose REA for the past 12 years, says he feels that long-range planning is one of the skills that he can bring to the table.
“I don’t believe that we should be in there telling individual grader operators what to do and when to do it, but we should be setting the policy that ensures people can get in and out of their driveways,” he said, noting Wildrose’s board of directors have given him full approval to run. “I don’t view council as a full-time job. Time management is something I’m very good at. I’ve been able to squeeze 25 hours out of every day.”
He notes it is no secret that the county is not in great financial shape, and says that’s something that has to be addressed.
“We have to look at our reserves. We have to look at our expenses. We can’t keep going back to the residents year after year increasing taxes and just saying we have a revenue problem. We have to look at our expenses … we absolutely, categorically have to. If we don’t have the funds, why are we doing it?
“I have concerns with spending any funds on non-prioritized issues. We need to be very clear about what our priorities are, and that can only come from that long-range strategic planning. Once we’re hitting what the residents need, then we can look at all those additional wants.”
Fox-Robinson says he understands that under the Municipal Government Act (MGA) there are certain things that a county has to do and feels it is important, especially for anyone seeking a council seat, to read and have a good understanding of that document, which he has done. He went on to say that there are some great staff at the county but they need a strategic plan to help guide them.
“The biggest thing has to be long-range planning, strategic planning, and prioritizing the absolute needs of the residents. If we’re not putting the resident’s interests first; what are we doing?” he asked.
“There’s no single decision is necessarily going to keep every resident happy and I fully understand that, and there are some tough decisions that need to be made along the way. There’s a lot of work to be done on the budget. I will say that anybody that says efficiencies cannot be found haven’t looked hard enough for them.”