The official final results of the Brooks Municipal election have come in, naming John Petrie the new mayor.
Petrie said that he had been asked by members of the Brooks community to consider running for Mayor when it became apparent that Barry Morishita was going to resign from his position, something Petrie had not been previously planning to do.
“I was a councillor, I was always involved in the community,” said Petrie. “I've been on many committees over time. My goal was to run for two terms, I was going to run for council again not realizing that Morishita was going to resign. When it looked like he was going to resign, people in the community started to ask me that, you know, John, you should maybe run for mayor. You're well known in the community, you've done a lot in the community. You're passionate about the community, you should run Mayor, and I said well, okay, I will. Originally I’d said that I’m quite happy being a councillor but then after thinking about it and talking with the family, they said to go for it, and I did. I'm excited about it.”
Petrie had been a part of the Brooks City Council since 2017, and has been a part of many committees including the Arts, Culture & Heritage Board, Communities in Bloom, Canadian Badlands Association and Newell Regional Tourism Association.
He doesn’t expect the transition from councillor to mayor to be difficult, something that he attributes to those he’ll be working with.
“We got a really good council, working on our committees and I’ve had a chance to sit down and talk with every one of the counselors there and they're all you know, positive,” said Petrie. “There are three incumbents and I know the others, I know the other three too. So it's sort of an easy transition.”
Petrie worked alongside Morishita for several years, and noted his skill with the public and media as something he’d learned from the former mayor.
“I always thought Morishita was very good with the public. A good example of that is, you know, how he navigated through the COVID crisis,” said Petrie. “I know these numbers almost by heart here. On May 2 2020, we had about 842 active cases at one time in this community here. Per capita, it was one of the worst in Canada, at that time. And we were able to fight for assessment, testing, and different things like that. And a month later, if you look at the stats there, we were down to about maybe four, or five active cases, but he was able to communicate his message out there.”
This skill with the public is something Petrie hopes to bring into his own approach to the position, as well as remaining someone that the public feels they can speak with.
“I lived in Brooks for 40 years and as somebody pointed out, when they knew I was running, they said I don't believe you have any enemies out there,” said Petrie. “There isn’t anybody who dislikes you, which is probably not true. But I think my major asset is, I'm approachable to anybody. Even as a councillor, or even when I worked in my other job, people could come and talk to me. So, I believe that's probably one of my biggest assets. Even as a councillor, if they had issues, it was easy to pop into the office, talk to me, and try to look for solutions to them. So I think that being approachable is the biggest asset you have to have as a councillor or a mayor.”
During his time as mayor, Petrie intends to focus on the economic development of Brooks, including focus on the agriculture and plant protein industry, the Hydrogen Hub, and looking to inspire tourism for the City as major points of interest.
“We have a fantastic Lake here, Lake Newell, there's a few other lakes around here, there’s Dinosaur Park,” said Petrie. “I think most of the campgrounds are well utilized already here. But we got 1.3 million people in Calgary there. If we get some of them to holiday around this area here, instead of heading to Banff or the mountains, that will help the economics of the community.”
Other projects of note included increased funding to Arts, Culture, and Heritage for the City of Brooks, as well as lighted pathways.
“The other one I talked about is changing the perception of the community from the outside,” said Petrie. “I have often said the inside of our community looks wonderful if you've ever been through the Brooks area, Communities in Bloom, and many other organizations have done a tremendous job and the inside, but as you pass by on the Trans Canada highway, you don't know what it looks like. So I'd like to sort of change you know, the perception; if we could beautify the outside to what I think is about 3 million vehicles that go by our community on the Trans Canada every year, it might help just change the perception of that a little bit, too.”
Anna Smith, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prairie Post East