New and diverse council sworn in in La Ronge

·3 min read

A new council was sworn in in La Ronge with three councillors returning to the table and three new councillors joining them for the 2020-24 council term.

Jordan McPhail and Hugh Watt have been re-elected, with Joe Hordyski returning to council following a mayoral loss in 2016, and Abby Besharah, Viviana Ruiz and Ryan Veteri joining them as new councillors as well as new mayor Colin Ratushniak.

This will be McPhail’s second term on council after first being elected in 2016 and his first as the deputy mayor. The deputy mayor is chosen by the council, and McPhail said he was honoured that his fellow councillors were chosen. There is a learning curve when you join municipal politics, he said, so now that he understands how the council works and operates, he has hit his stride.

McPhail was first encouraged to run by community members who thought we would be a good person for the job. Being solutions based and community-focused with a focus on grassroots activism, McPhail’s interest in politics was already there, so he decided to take their advice, and that of his family and friends, and dive into municipal politics. The 2016 term was a “trial by fire,” he said, since everyone was new to the table except for the former mayor Ron Woytowich.

Joining him at the table this term are a diverse group of people who want to bring a new perspective and a focused plan for La Ronge’s future to the council.

“We have a very good, strong group of people that have very thoughtful discussions that are mainly focused on the policy and the strategic direction of our community. I'm very optimistic for the next four years.”

Veteri has been a long time volunteer in the community, he said, so getting this seat on council has been very exciting. Living in La Ronge since he was a teenager, Veteri said he has seen La Ronge at its worst years and wanted to contribute to making the community better.

As an advocate for the homeless, Veteri said he wants more programs like scatter sites and food banks. The council needs to start taking better care of those in need in their community, he said, and a community project that would see tiny homes built for housing would be something that Veteri would like to work towards.

“We could reach out to the provincial and federal government and press them for funding for such a project to happen.”

Veteri is honoured to have the support of the people of La Ronge. He will work hard for his community, he said, and he will be readily available to address people’s concerns either through Facebook, email or phone.

Besharah has lived in La Ronge since 2013 and has worked as an urban and regional planner for the last seven years, she said. Being elected to council and becoming part of the decision-making process will be a welcome change, however, she has always pushed for positive change within the government. With her background in government bureaucracy, Besharah saidshe hopes to help inform fellow council members about government policy so they can make informed decisions.

Besharah was interested in how diverse this coming council team was in terms of diverse voices at the table. The last council was “pretty homogeneous,” she said, with men in similar fields making up the council. With the new council having a more diverse look to it, Besharah is expecting some lively debates about what is best for the town coming their way, she said.

As an advocate for public spaces, Besharah said there is plenty the town can do to improve spaces for people to increase physical activity among the residents and beautify spaces to attract more tourism.

Looking forward to the next term, Besharah said that more needs to be done to deepen communication between the town and its residents.

Becky Zimmer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist