WESTLOCK - One of the most compelling races in Westlock County in the 2017 municipal election is getting a sequel.
Incumbent Lou Hall, who won the Division 3 seat with 108 votes in 2017, will square off versus challenger Ray Marquette who collected 105 ballots — Marquette had been the incumbent after claiming Division 3 in an unchallenged 2016 byelection.
Hall, who served as reeve for three years during the past term, says she’s enjoyed her time on council, but says there’s still work left to do.
Top of her list is economic development.
“There are a few things, but the first is the creation of an economic development strategy for the county,” said Hall Sept. 23. “Costs go up and revenues have gone down and we’re in a really difficult situation to not raise taxes and keep vibrancy in the county.
“There’s been many challenges that we’ve met and been able to work through and I want to keep working through them until they’re done. That’s how I am: if I start something, I want to finish it.”
Hall said they’ve got a “good start on rural crime” but it also remains high on her to-do list, while recreation, taxes and infrastructure are important ongoing issues.
“I think recreation is huge and that goes hand-in-hand with economic development, which goes hand-in-hand with developing the county,” she continued. “We’re ratepayers as well, so the decisions we make affect us also and that’s a perspective we keep in mind.”
Hall, who considers herself an “elected official” and not a “politician”, said the last four years have seen many positive steps forward by the municipality, specifically in the county’s relationship with the Town of Westlock and Village of Clyde on a number of different fronts.
“The last four years have gone by very quickly. Going through it and learning … I’m not sure people really understand all the work that’s involved in being a councillor. It’s not just attending a meeting or two a month,” she continued. “There’s lots of research you do, there’s lots of reading and communicating with ratepayers and troubleshooting. There’s so much, but I really enjoy it and it’s given me a new perspective on a lot of things.”
Marquette ready for Round 2
Long-term planning is the No. 1 priority for Marquette who says the current council is not properly planning ahead.
The lifelong county resident, businessman and farmer says the current way council is run is inefficient and the lack of forward thinking is detrimental to residents.
“We have to make a plan, not for just one year but for three or four years down the road. Any business that runs efficiently has a three-year or four-year or five-year plan down the road,” said Marquette, who has run a silage business for the past 19 years.
“With me being a farmer, I can’t decide to grow wheat or barley this year and not know what my rotation is going to be for next year.”
Operating the county like a "one big business” is “how it needs to be run,” he continued, adding that if elected he will push for long-term financial planning.
“We know our tax base and council should know where the money is going ahead of time. It’s not like the tax base is going down, since the oil industry is coming back, we’re going to be getting some more royalties from the oil and gas sector.”
Marquette has also set sights on streamlining the decision-making process in the municipality, saying the past council took too long to make decisions that he feels could have been resolved quicker.
“I think some of the decisions that are being made are not all the right decisions and maybe we need some change and other ways of thinking in there, get some businesspeople as councillors,” said Marquette. “I think when (council) asks for information and they keep asking for more and more information, it feels like they don’t want to make a decision.”