A look ahead with Mayor Michaels

·5 min read

When it comes to any projects or initiatives talked about during the campaign period, Mayor Marcel Michaels said the first big step is for council to collectively sit down and define the direction they want to go in.

A new recreation centre was discussed during the campaign, but Michaels stressed that the water treatment plant and its capital components play a huge part in the rec centre’s future.

“We can definitely focus on service delivery at the moment. We do have a facility that many people in Hinton use and we can focus on having better programs and resources, in order to deliver what we currently have,” he said.

Beyond that, he repeated, council needs to figure out what they can realistically get done in this four year-term.

He stated that the Town of Hinton has a current agreement in place with West Fraser regarding the use of the water treatment facility. The Town is looking to strengthen that agreement and Michaels noted that discussions with West Fraser have been positive.

“We are at the stage where we’re in discussion in order to find out what changes or what that agreement looks like with West Fraser and the Town of Hinton,” Michaels said.

Michaels also previously spoke about road safety and improving the pathways in town. He said this could either be done through a safety review within the community, creating a new committee with an actionable mandate, or a simple discussion of what Council’s vision is through the strategic plan.

With so many different ways to tackle priority items in town, Michaels wants to hear from each councilor on what the best way forward is.

“Most [issues] will naturally fall within the strategic plan and then there will be an opportunity through the budget process in order to implement certain things,” he said.

The town’s safety component likely includes a combination of capital and operational items, but other items that just include capital components can be addressed through the budget, Michaels added.

The organizational meeting was held on Oct. 26 and included not just the swearing-in of council, but also assigning council members to specific committees. Michaels explained that leading up to that meeting he met with each councilor to get a better understanding of what they are passionate about and what experiences they have. Based on that information and any feedback from councilors, he put together a list to assign council members to committee boards.

One example, he noted, was that he would look to assign someone with business experience for a committee like the Hinton and Region Economic Development Coalition (HREDC).

“Passion is probably another very strong indicator on where somebody should be. If somebody has a passion for issue A, they’re more likely going to be effective if they really care about the committee they’re on,” Michaels said.

The Mayor’s suggestions were open for discussion during the organizational meeting for possible changes.

The Town of Hinton has a working relationship with Yellowhead County, and this year Michaels will be working with new mayor, Wade Williams. Michaels said he has been part of inter-municipal committees with Wade while he was a councilor for the County in the previous term.

“Wade has always been extremely professional. I always enjoyed his company and we’ve already reached out,” Michaels said. “I look forward to working alongside Wade and the rest of his council in order to keep pushing that partnership that I think both of us depend on,” Michaels said.

Within the next three months, Michaels plans to send an invitation and a date for both councils to meet in order to introduce themselves and get a better understanding of who’s at the table.

During this, both councils can discuss the issues and opportunities within the County and Hinton area.

“We have always had strong agreements with the County, with cost sharing, and the Intermunicipal Collaboration Frameworks (ICF). It’s just about remaining focused on that,” Michaels said.

He added that focusing on opportunities between them will allow them to bring more investment around Hinton in the County and better serve everyone in the region, not just the people inside the Town of Hinton.

Hinton’s Council is heading into budget deliberations with interim CAO Laura Howarth. Howarth stepped up as interim CAO earlier in 2021 and Michaels is confident that Howarth will lead a smooth budget-setting process.

“Laura has been in the organization for quite some time and has done a great job in recent months. I think with the continuity and the experience we just have to stay focused on what our duties are and work with the administrative corporate services and other departments when budget time comes to make sure that what we’ve heard from the public is implemented, and what is put in front of us is properly discussed, and we bring forward a budget to the community that is fiscally responsible and really represents the Town of Hinton,” Michaels said.

Michaels is encouraged by the experience he gained in his last term as well as the experience of the four returning councilors, one new member who was a councilor in the past, and one with a tremendous amount of community involvement.

“[We] just need to communicate and stay focussed on what our goals are and that will be done through the strategic plan and setting that foundation from day one,” Michaels said.

Building trust between council and the administrative staff continues with respect and working with them, he said.

That means every councilor needs to know their role and with their previous experience, Michaeals believes that will be much easier.

He added that team building consists of taking advantage of things like the AUMA convention, strategic planning, or deliberating council budgets, and using every exercise to create an atmosphere where councilors can get to know eachother better.

“And that, if done early, will really help us to succeed,” he said.

Masha Scheele, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hinton Voice

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