BARRHEAD- When Dausen Kluin first decided to run for the Town of Barrhead council, he wanted to represent the younger generation and give a voice to those who did not have one.
Four years later, the 28-year-old incumbent councillor said it is those same reasons why he has decided to run for re-election.
Kluin grew up in Fort Assiniboine on a cattle ranch. After graduating from the last Grade 12 class at Fort Assiniboine School, he attended NAIT, receiving a business marketing diploma in 2017.
That same year, he moved to Barrhead a few months before the municipal election. In addition to being a councillor, Kluin, who recently was married, works part-time at Blue Heron Support Services and with the Pembina Hills School Division as a program assistant.
With Coun. Ryan Warehime announcing he would not be seeking re-election, Kluin said he felt that council needed the younger voice he provided.
"I also bring the perspective to council of someone living with a disability," he said.
Kluin suffers from cerebral palsy, a group of disorders that affect a person's ability to move and maintain balance, muscle tone and posture.
"I am very fortunate that I can do what I do. I always say that I don't live with cerebral palsy, cerebral palsy lives with me," he said, adding not everyone is as fortunate. "Cerebral palsy affects everyone differently ... it did not affect my speech, for a lot of people it does. I want to be a voice for people who do not have a voice."
Kluin said he has also always been interested in municipal politics, partially stemming from his uncle Dale Kluin, a long-time Woodlands County councillor.
His family also has a long tradition of volunteerism. One of the things Kluin is most proud of is winning Barrhead's 2018 Youth Service Award, for his work mentoring young people at area schools.
Kluin said his two biggest focuses since he joined council has been economic development and accessibility.
On the economic development front, he said council has worked hard to attract investment to the area. He referred to the work they have done with Schneider Lands, a municipally-owned 14-acre parcel n the west side of town — just north of the apartment buildings along 53rd St. and south of the Shepherd’s Care facility.
"We are close to getting highway access [from Alberta Transporation], so in the next couple of years, we hopefully can start to see some development there," he said.
Kluin said he hopes to continue his work with the Barrhead Accessibility Coalition, patterned after a similar group in Westlock.
One of the things the group planned to do before COVID-19 interrupted was to host an accessibility challenge.
As part of the event, the coalition would invite prominent able-bodied residents and put them through a series of challenges to simulate what people with disabilities have to go through and how accessible the community is.
"So that they realize there are barriers in the community. We might not be able to fix them all, at least not at once, but we can start to conquer them, even if it is one at a time," he said.
Another area Kluin wants to continue to work on in the next term is crime reduction. He noted the town has made strides where it can, through the creation of crime reduction initiatives, mostly through the Barrhead and Area Regional Crime Coalition (BARCC).
BARCC is a partnership between Woodlands County, the Town of Barrhead and the County of Barrhead, as well as the Barrhead RCMP and Rural Crime Watch. It was created in 2018, in part due to talks initiated by Peace River-Westlock MP Arnold Viersen with stakeholders to discuss ways to reduce rural crime. In September 2019, Alberta Municipal Affairs awarded the partners the Minister's Award of Excellence in the Collaborative and Technology category".
As part of the initiative, BARCC has set up a software-based system that allows the municipalities, Rural Crime Watch and the RCMP to broadcast messages via automated phone calls, e-mails, and texts, about items of public interest.
"We have made some progress, but we have to continue to come up with initiatives to deter crime," Kluin said.
However, he said council has limited levers to pull, adding much of the problem comes from an ineffective justice system that "puts criminals back onto the streets."
Kluin is also concerned that going into the next term, the province will continue downloading costs and responsibilities to municipalities.
In 2020, rural communities and those with populations under 5,000 had to start contributing to their policing costs, starting at 10 per cent. Their share will rise every year until it reaches 30 per cent of policing costs by 2023. Next year, the province will cut the Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) funding grants by 25 per cent over two years as it phases out the program.
"We have to lobby and advocate for small municipalities for that we are not forced to drastically increase taxes, or cut services," Kluin said.
For more information about Kluin's campaign, he invites residents to contact him at 780-284-1858.