Neepawa Mayor Blake McCutcheon has decided not to seek a second term in office as he pursues his passions for travel and volunteering instead.
Speaking to the Sun about his departure, McCutcheon, who served as mayor of the town for the past four years, praised the hard work of town administration and council. People often underestimate how hard they work, he said.
“They have to keep the town running and make sure the average person believes that they’re being taken care of, and at the same time plan for the future,” McCutcheon said.
Running in 2018 on a platform of giving citizens a voice in what goes on in municipal decisions, McCutcheon said the majority of his term as mayor focused on infrastructure and housing to meet the needs of one of the fastest-growing communities in Manitoba.
During that time, he said, he learned a lot about the challenges that face the mayor and elected town council members in serving a rapidly-changing community.
Being mayor is no cake walk either, McCutcheon said.
“Being a mayor is a big job,” he said. “You have to be on every day, and you have to be involved.”
Despite this, McCutcheon, who has lived in Neepawa for more than 40 years, is happy he had the chance to be mayor for one term.
“Someone told me that everybody should run for office once, and be part of a political system,” he said.
A desire to travel more and to do more volunteering, something that McCutcheon said he has always held dear, was the reason for his decision to not seek re-election.
He’s volunteered with Touchwood Park, a charity that helps people with developmental disabilities, for 25 years.
“I really enjoy that,” McCutcheon said. “I think that’s where I’m going to spend my time.”
Hawaii, Europe, the southern United States and Mexico are all places McCutcheon enjoys travelling to, and he said he hopes to visit more frequently after his tenure as mayor is over. Meanwhile, he said he wants to see some fresh faces on town council moving forward.
“It’s time for that next generation to step up.”
Working with McCutcheon has been a thoroughly enjoyable experience, said Colleen Synchyshyn, Neepawa’s chief administrative officer.
His experience and his service have been valuable in bringing a different perspective to municipal politics, she said.
“[He’s] always available for a chat, he served the community with dignity and respect.”
Highlights of McCutcheon’s tenure as mayor include guiding the community through a July 2020 flood that broke the Park Lake dam, emptied the lake, and damaged nearby homes and businesses.
This past July, he oversaw the town’s issuance of a tender for contracts to replace the dam and reservoir using both provincial funds and disaster relief assistance from the federal government.
He also worked closely with HyLife Foods, the province and the federal government to develop the HyLife Back Forty multi-use trails system, which entered its latest phase of development last month.
Brian Hedley, general manager of the Neepawa-Gladstone Co-op, the town’s incumbent deputy mayor, has registered his intent to run for mayor, Synchyshyn told the Sun, but had not filed registration papers by press time. The Sun contacted Hedley but did not hear back by press time.
Miranda Leybourne, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun