WESTLOCK - Murtaza Jamaly, a six-year Town of Westlock council vet, is the fourth incumbent to let his name stand in this fall’s municipal election, saying “there’s unfinished work” this tight-knit group wants to complete.
Jamaly will join two-term mayor Ralph Leriger, and current councillors Curtis Snell and Randy Wold on the ballot Oct. 18, while John Shoemaker and Clem Fagnan have already declared they’re retiring from municipal politics — only 17-year council veteran David Tuckey has yet to declare his intentions. Joining them on the ballot so far are first-timers Abby Keyes and Jon Kramer who declared their candidacy earlier in the spring.
The 30-year-old married father of two said it wasn’t as simple as saying “I’ll run” this time around. Two weeks before the 2017 election, his first daughter was born and since then they’ve welcomed their second daughter, who’s now 18-months old.
Throw in the fact that he’s a self-employed entrepreneur, which isn’t a nine-to-five job, and the reality that being a councillor can be a full-time job and well, the decision took time.
“I still feel there’s a need to support my community and I still have some gusto left to finish the work I’ve started. But there’s also a group of individuals who have committed to being on council for the better part of the last two terms who have a vision for our community and are interested in working together to see that vision through,” said Jamaly, whose family moved to Westlock in 1992.
“There’s a camaraderie, a sense of a team and what we’ve accomplished so far and what we can accomplish in another term. We feel that a unified approach has been a great benefit to the community and I feel it’s important to continue that. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”
And as the other incumbents have stated, Leriger’s willingness to run again weighed heavily in their decisions. Jamaly currently chairs the Westlock Family and Community Support Services advisory board, as well as being the northeast region rep on the Family and Community Support Services Association of Alberta. He’s also the town’s representative on the Westlock and area crime coalition, and is one of two town councillors who sit on the municipal planning commission and regional economic development committee.
“I give a lot of credit to Ralph and I can’t stress that enough. One of the things that we’ve always done is that when the vote is cast the only opinion you carry forward is that of council. And that has been good for the health of this group and that’s been a Ralph Leriger strategy from the start,” he continued. “I would not be running today if Ralph was not running as the mayor. And I’m not the only councillor who feels that way.”
That leadership, said Jamaly, has led to more of a focus on the workplace culture of the town as they’ve done employee satisfaction surveys and used those results when crafting the municipality’s strategic plan.
“Employee culture has been part of our last two strategic plans of council. And it filters down to every last little detail. The summer crew understands why we’re working on community beautification. And public works understands why we’re delivering the services we do,” he continued. “Certainly we’ve made changes, but the goal has always been around building and retaining a dream team.”
The municipality’s asset management plan is “better than ever,” he continued, and the amount of dollars that’s been spent fixing core infrastructure is “leaps and bounds” ahead of where they’ve previously been. Regional cooperation between the town, Westlock County and the Village of Clyde has also improved dramatically.
“I think the strategic vision of the region involves continued collaboration with the county. I think both municipalities have struggled in their own way, but we are stronger together. The work we’re doing on regional economic development, the work we have done in terms of recreation. It’s a point of pride for this council that we’ve been able to ink a regional cost-sharing agreement on facilities that were contentious in the county,” he said.