What started as conversations with friends and colleagues has led to Erik Gault adding his name to the ballot for the city’s Oct. 16 byelection.
Gault said although he is new to municipal politics, he has served on many boards for organizations, schools and churches.
The councillor position opened after the death of coun. John Lehners on July 17.
Gault has a few priorities: His first is to ensure the quality of life in the city is upheld and improved, he said.
He hopes to help continue the work on trail systems, recreational activities, and facility centres that council has already begun.
“I think we've done a great deal of changing from an oilfield town to someplace where people want to put down roots, and I think we've made great strides in that direction, but I want to continue to move that one forward.”
He also wants to make transportation within the city more accessible and reliable.
Gault said his parents needed to leave the community after his father went blind due to a genetic disease.
“He could no longer drive, and in this community, he said, ‘there's no way that I could do a job here and go to an office and hold the job while being able to get to it on time with our transit system,’” said Gault.
He noted that was many years ago, and the city's public transportation has improved but still needs work.
“Some cities our size seem to utilize technology and people's resources and time a lot more effectively.”
Gault’s third priority is “finding homes for those less fortunate in our in our community and caring for them.”
“It's a multifaceted issue; I don't think anybody wakes up one morning and thinks, you know, I'm going to get addicted to a really nasty substance and just stay that way.
“Obviously, there are reasons for some of our drug problems which is related to homelessness, and there are reasons for the crime which is related to the homelessness and related to the drug problems.
“Even though it's complicated, and even though we have seen some movement forward and some improvements in our city in the last few years, I think there's a long way to go, even though it's not the easiest issue.”
Gault's been living in Grande Prairie a long time, and he says that has given him insight into the community. He said he believes he knows what residents want to see in the future.
“I am pretty good at listening to people and hearing the different opinions but also being able to take all that and refine it down into moving forward and some actionable steps to improve.”
If elected, Gault will be part of the four-year budget deliberation that begin only weeks away after being sworn in.
He says he’s prepared for it.
“There's a lot for me to learn, so I've been reading on the city's website (and) I've been doing research and then talking to a few different councillors, just to get their opinion on things and views on things just to kind of get a map for myself of how things are looking.”
Candidate nominations closed on Sept. 19 at noon.
The official nominees include Robin Rochon, Bryan Petryshyn, Wade Pilat, Erik Gault, Okhifoh Solomon, Tammy Brown and Frank Skolly.
Two advance voting days are set for Oct. 8 and Oct. 15 at the Montrose Cultural Centre.
The estimated cost of the byelection to the city is $129,980, which covers temporary wages, automated voting, ballots, marketing, advertising, facility rentals, and other related expenditures, says the city.
Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News