BARRHEAD-Town of Barrhead councillor Leslie Penny has decided not to run for reelection after serving two consecutive terms.
"Eight years is enough. I have had a magnificent experience having the opportunity to work with many wonderful people, but I think it is time," she said.
Penny first came to Barrhead in 1972 to take a registered nurse position at the Barrhead Healthcare Centre after spending one year in Pembroke, Ont. Before that, she lived in Edmonton, where she was born and raised.
Since she has been in Barrhead, Penny has had many jobs, all in the healthcare field, the latest before retiring was as a manager of a seniors’ health area in the Alberta Health Services north zone.
Like most people who enter into municipal politics, she said she did it because she wanted to give back to the community.
"I know that is the standard answer, and perhaps a bit lame because there are other ways to do that, but it is true," Penny said.
She added she was also hoping to play a role in bringing a public transportation system to the community.
"I've always thought all municipalities, regardless of the size, should have a form of public transportation system, even if it is as simple as a taxi service," Penny said. "We haven't been consistent in finding a way that people can move around in Barrhead, let alone if someone has to go to Edmonton."
At least that was the case until recently, she said, adding that a business based in the Spruce Grove/Stony Plain area does service the Barrhead area and provides transportation to surrounding urban centres.
And she understands why saying there are several impediments to starting a transportation or ride-sharing service, whether it is a business or volunteer organization.
"Insurance can be prohibitively expensive, as is having a dedicated driver, not to mention all the other costs involved in vehicle ownership," Penny said. "And then people have to be willing to pay what the cost is."
Although Penny said she has been fortunate to been involved in making decisions about many worthwhile projects, a few stand out, one of the first being the replacement of the aquatics centre.
"The fact that we have the quality facility that we do is a real feather in the cap for our community," she said, noting as the swimming pool becomes more known in the area for its features, it will continue to bring in more people to the community.
Penny added the feature of the pool that brings a smile to her face the most is the current channel or “lazy river”.
"[Council] took more than a bit of flack for the components we were considering for the pool, at the top of the list being the lazy river ... but when you go to the pool now, where do you find everyone? Walking or playing in the river," she said.
Other projects or decisions Penny is pleased to have been a part of include the purchase of the automated garbage truck and the aerial fire truck, both of which were also a bit controversial at the time.
She said she was also proud to be on council when the community won the 2014 Kraft Celebration Tour, earning $75,000 on top of the $25,000 for the curling rink.
As for the biggest challenge or obstacle she faced while on council, Penny points to the disagreement over recreation funding with the County of Barrhead.
At the crux of the matter was the town’s belief the county should contribute equally to the operation costs of the municipality's three main recreation recreation facilities (the aquatics centre, Agrena and curling rink).
At the height of the dispute, the town initiated amalgamation proceedings, which the province denied. The argument was finally solved when the province ordered the municipalities to binding arbitration.
"There was a lot of extra meetings where you would look across the table at someone you had have known for years and disagree with them in such a way when all was said and done and still be friends," Penny said.
Penny said after her experience would definitely encourage anyone considering entering into municipal politics, to take the plunge.
However, she cautioned prospective candidates who believe council is just going to a council meeting every second week.
Penny noted serving on council is a big commitment, adding each councillor serves on several community committees.
"I refer to them as, oh, by the ways," she said.
Penny noted every year, in October, at the organizational meeting, councillors are asked, "by the way, what committees do you want to represent the town on?
"And when you get to those meetings, it is 'by the way, what subcommittees do you want to be on?'"
While Penny has decided to retire from municipal politics, that does not mean she is done with the institution. In the next few months, it is largely accepted that the Prime Minister will call for an election.
If he does, Penny hopes to be the candidate for the federal Liberal party, saying she has already submitted her paperwork to be included in the selection process to select the candidate for the Peace River-Westlock riding.
If she is successful, this will be the second time she will run for Member of Parliament. Penny has also has run provincially under the Liberal banner on two occasions.
"I do not believe in running just once, and if you are not successful, just give up," she said. "So I am going to give it one more try."