New, former reeves talk past, present, future for RM of Lajord

·3 min read

Erwin Beitel’s 20-plus year run on RM of Lajord council came to an end Nov. 9 when Armond Gervais defeated him in the local reeve election.

Over those two decades, Beitel said the area has transformed to include more business and industry, and that the RM itself has changed how it manages its equipment.

“We went from repairing equipment to using warranty, which cost us very little,” Beitel said. “All of the buildings and cold storage, and all of the equipment is unbelievable compared to what I took over 20 years ago.”

Back then, Beitel said much of the RM’s role was grading roads in a farming community. Then larger landowners made for changes, followed by bigger business.

“A lot of people weren’t happy when we started working with potash, until we met with the government and they told us, ‘You know guys, there’s big revenue for the government and you’d better change your thinking.’ That’s basically how that went.”

Running more programs with fewer dollars created more challenges.

“It takes a lot of thinking and planning, especially when you have five towns in the municipality,” Beitel said. “You know some of them want pavement on their streets and it can’t be done. It’s a challenge to satisfy everyone and they wanted change. They got change and I hope it’s for the better, or at least as good as I left it.”

Gervais, who served in the previous term as Division 5 councillor, said while voters sent a message they wanted change, Beitel deserves a lot of credit for the extensive work he put into the community.

“I think Mr. Beitel was a good reeve and he taught me a lot of stuff over the last 12 or 13 years,” Gervais said. “I think it was a good experience sitting there and watching him be reeve. I think he was probably one of our best reeves we’ve ever had on council. I learned a lot from Erwin. As far as I’m concerned he’s a really good guy.”

Twenty years ago, Beitel would never have thought his political career could last this long.

“I was not interested in politics,” Beitel said. “I got talked into it and it went on from there. I enjoyed it over the years and I really learned a lot. I tell my new councillors and everybody else, go to every convention because you always learn something. I’ve defended the RM in court. Yes, it was a real learning experience for me. I don’t regret it — 99 per cent of it was good.”

Gervais said he hoped to build on that progress, while bringing more than a decade of council experience to the Reeve’s chair.

“I think working with council to see what our priorities are will be the main thing, but road construction in the rural areas, culverts and water drainage are big issues, and helping out the hamlets a little more,” Gervais said. “Sometimes I think they’ve been left behind, I think. There’s sewer problems, water problems, lagoon problems. There’s stuff we’ve got to look at to see if we can help them.”

Keith Borkowsky, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Quad Town Forum