Ritchot councillor Curtis Claydon is back on the campaign trail and hopes that Ste. Agathe residents will send him back for another four-year term.
Claydon began his political career in 2018 when he won the Ward 3 seat by acclamation. This time around, he is facing some competition for the seat.
He admits to a little naivete when he first joined council almost four years ago. This time around, he says that he’s more prepared for the reality of the demands of council involvement.
As well, he won’t be saddled with the steep learning curve of his first few months in office.
“For my first term, I was somewhat naive as to the demands of the role and the political involvement,” says Claydon. “There is a significant amount of personal time spent interacting with residents, researching decisions, coordinating efforts, and navigating policy. If you have a career, you can expect to work 12-hour workdays, on occasion, when combining council activities.”
Still, he says it’s good to feel the support of his family and of community stakeholders such as the Ste. Agathe Community Development Inc. (CDI) in his decision to run again.
“I work closely with the groups that improve our community, so it is important to me that projects succeed with municipal support,” Claydon says. “It’s a privilege to represent the bilingual community of Ste. Agathe, and also Glenlea, the rural addresses, businesses, and agricultural producers that call Ritchot home.”
And indeed this past term has been a busy one for Claydon. Above regular council duties, he has been active on more than six auxiliary committees including the Ste. Agathe CDI, the Ritchot Community Development Corp., the Ritchot Recreation Advisory Committee, and the Association of Rural Municipalities.
Claydon credits the synergy of the current council members for the considerable development that’s occurred in the RM in recent years. Council’s focus, he says, has been to encourage sustainable growth by fostering relationships with RM residents and local developers. For this reason, new building permits continue to reach record highs across the municipality.
Ste. Agathe, too, he says, is likely to be heading into yet another growth phase.
His term in office has produced some important highlights, not the least of which was the rollout of high-speed fibre internet to his hometown of Ste. Agathe. Getting this initial infrastructure, he adds, means high-speed expansion can continue throughout the rest of the RM.
“It’s tough to think back a couple of years and remember how we struggled through the pandemic, making Zoom calls that constantly cut out or froze on us,” he says. “We are working for the remaining residents that still experience this, but for many, we can now boast the most affordable and high-quality internet in Manitoba.”
He’s also proud to have been a part of bringing in the new sidewalk and crossing lights at PR 305, which makes for a significantly safer school crossing zone for students living on the north side of town.
The new wastewater treatment facility was a major win for Claydon as well, who sees exponential new opportunities now for the Riel Industrial Park.
“If you combine the increased water capacity that we are currently working on, you are going to see food processors with a competitive advantage for expansion and the start of a race to purchase the remaining lots.”
Reducing Ste. Agathe’s crime rate by 62 percent in 2021 was something Claydon attributes at least in part to the mobile patrol company that council hired as well as the inception of the Citizen on Patrol Program in Ste. Agathe.
But while the big projects are important, the little impacts council had on residents’ lives are the ones that really resonated with Claydon.
“The ability to connect with residents and provide support is incredibly rewarding. Leading the charge to have the very first Pride flag flown in the municipality or working with a family to create a bylaw to allow for beekeeping in a residential zone are examples of this.”
If re-elected, Claydon already has a list of new or ongoing projects he’s ready to dig into.
This fall, he says, the Ste. Agathe dock and boat launch should near their completion. As well, the new Baudry Trails project continues to evolve.
“I am encouraged by the focus on healthy living and have supported the development of our waterfront along the Red River,” Claydon says. “My vision is to link both projects with pathways that meet on either side of the proposed PR 305 bridge reconstruction.”
Major upgrades are also in the works for Cheyenne Park.
He’s disappointed that staying on top of municipal roads and infrastructure was made exceptionally tough this year by the spring thaw, high waters, and the need to wait on the province for financial assistance.
In spite of that, he says Ste. Agathe will soon see some construction begin along Pembina Trail with an extension of the sidewalk from Lemoine to Courcelles Street. At the same time, some ditches will be filled and drainage will be upgraded to match the north side development.
“The work is budgeted at around $175,000. I am confident that many additional small projects will be cleaned up once our Public Works department sets up in the community to start construction.”
Claydon says he will continue to advocate for the development of a full or partial dike along the riverbank. A design process for this is already in the discussion stage.
And finally, he hopes to pursue options for the community’s older residents so that they are able to live independently but in a supported environment in their hometown.
As for Claydon’s campaign strategy, he says it will involve a lot of community dialogue and interaction. He also welcomes residents to reach out to him by phone, email, or social media.
“Mark your calendars for October 26 and get out there and vote,” Claydon says to his constituents. “New residents should contact the RM to get on the voters list and avoid delay at the polling stations.”
Brenda Sawatzky, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Niverville Citizen