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Chamber returns Mayors’ Breakfast after COVID hiatus

AU leadership join municipal leaders for first time
Rob Balay, mayor for the Town of Athabasca, spoke at the 2023 Mayors' and Reeve's Breakfast, held Sept. 13 at the Athabasca Regional Multiplex

ATHABASCA – The Athabasca District Chamber of Commerce (ADCC) returned to its successful Mayor and Reeve’s Breakfast this year, selling over 50 tickets to the informal event that gave local citizens an opportunity to get up to speed on what’s happening around the county. 

The Sept. 13 event, held at the Athabasca Regional Multiplex, saw Town of Athabasca mayor Rob Balay joined by his Boyle counterpart, Colin Derko, as well as Athabasca County reeve Brian Hall and Athabasca University’s president, Dr. Alex Clark. The four men shared some successes that their respective institutions had and answered questions from attendees. 

“I thought it was really good, it’s always good when the leaders of the community can connect with business owners and residents, and hear feedback on what councils have been doing,” said Balay. “Events like this are really important, I think we could be engaging our community more then we already do, and this is definitely a good opportunity to do that.  

ADCC President Rick Baksza said that the meal is an opportunity for “face-to-face connection” and was a good chance for the community to see how the local leaders interacted. 

“Everybody in the room felt the synergy between the county and the town, and Boyle,” said Baksza in a Sept. 13 interview. “You could really feel the difference in how this group was compared to some of the groups in the past, which is just fantastic.” 

The event was also an opportunity for community members to hear first-hand what was being accomplished, and what was still being worked on at the municipal level. 

“I didn’t know about the initiatives that the town was doing with the lobbyists and stuff,” said Baksza, referring to the Economic Development Officer that the Athabasca Regional Economic Development committee is hiring for. “That speaks volumes to local businesses, (local leaders) aren’t just managing a visitors bureau, they’re taking steps to really impacting the local businesses hear, as well as attracting more.” 

While the municipal leaders have been a constant at the event, AU was a newcomer; according to Baksza, the decision to invite Dr. Clark to speak was easy. 

“We sent out an invitation to them and they responded right away, they were ecstatic to show up and send more than just their president; their new VP of Marketing had started on Tuesday, and she was still there,” said Baksza. 

Baksza wasn’t the only person who felt that what was going on in the county was special; all three municipal leaders touched on the importance of collaboration, and the response it was generating at all levels. 

“I was surprised by how many people came to talk to me after, and how many complements we go from people, that surprised me,” said Balay in a Sept. 14 call. “We don’t always get to hear the positives, so it was nice to hear for sure.” 

There was a brief event at the end for community members to ask questions — one woman asked about red tape reduction, while another man touched on the possibility of a new building for the town’s doctors to practice in — but Balay is hoping that more time could be allocated for it next year. 

“I think that we could see more of a question-and-answer period, and maybe a little less of us doing the talking,” said Balay. “I would encourage that more, that we way we get more feedback, and it would be valuable for all of us. It could be less of us talking at people, and more of us having a conversation with everyone.”  

Cole Brennan,

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