Meet the Candidates

Voting for a new mayor to lead the town of Wakaw takes place next week, and with new residents in town, introducing the candidates is an important function of the newspaper to enable residents to make an informed choice. There are two candidates running in this By-election, Michael Markowski and Patricia Robertson. Both candidates were asked the same questions.

Michael Markowski

When asked what makes him qualified for the job of Mayor, Markowski cited that he has been an elected member of Town Council since 2014 and has been part of many Boards, Committees and groups. He currently sits as acting Deputy Mayor of Wakaw and is Chair of the Wakaw Lake Regional Park Board and the Wakaw & District Recreation Board. He is also very involved in the community having a vested interest in many groups and organizations. He is an entrepreneur with a small business in town which brings with it it’s own set of assets.

Having been born and raised in Wakaw, Mike feels that he knows the community very well and can see the issues and concerns with the same eyes that his neighbours can, while also seeing the great potential Wakaw has. “I’m passionate about making Wakaw the best Town in Saskatchewan to live, work and play in! I want to make a difference now!”

When asked what the main issue he believed was facing Wakaw right now, and how as Mayor would he address that? Markowski replied that he sees two main issues that are related, the first being aging infrastructure and the second being the condition of 1st Street South. Most of the town’s water and sewer lines were installed in the 1960’s with street paving happening after that with no repaving having happened in the interim. Town Council created an ambitious 30-year replacement plan which began in 2018 with the replacement of the sewer main from the lift station and along portions of Highway 2. The plan, he continued, is to tackle the project on a street-by-street basis with a new focus street every three years for water, sewer, and pavement. As 1st Street South is Wakaw’s primary business district, it will be the first to get attention. Council has been working hard to make a revitalization plan happen which will involve replacing water and sewer lines, sidewalks, pavement and making Wakaw’s “main” street an attractive focal point. Ultimately, the revitalization will help attract new businesses and residents along with increasing tourism and supporting local businesses. A strong local economy will benefit everyone whether by making Wakaw a fun, desirable place to live, increasing recreational opportunities, or whatever.

Municipal elections notoriously have a small voter turnout, so we asked why do you think that is? As a long term member of Council, Markowski felt this was changing in Wakaw. In the recent past elections, Markowski stated there was increased voter turnout in the town. In general, he said, small voter turnouts for Municipal elections are likely directly linked to a couple things: in a lot of cases, people became involved with Municipal politics in the past to benefit themselves and/or their families – this has changed now due to several major changes such as declarations of conflict of interests, etc. Today, there seems to be a renewed interest in municipal politics, which is evident with Wakaw’s current Town Council. People are passionate and want to see positive changes in their communities.

Another factor, in Markowski’s view, is that in the past, Councils made all the decisions and simply never felt much value in engaging the public, so ultimately the public in turn lost interest in municipal elections, which results in small voter turnout. That combined with a lack of engagement from candidates, which still exists today, all combine to keep people from taking the time to vote. Markowski feels that to earn peoples’ vote, candidates need to get out there and show the voters what their plans are, show that they are passionate about filling a position on Council and be part of the community.

On a final note, Mayoral Candidate Markowski shared this:

The Town of Wakaw is extremely fortunate to have a young, progressive Town Council who have many initiatives on the go. I want to ensure the Town can capitalize on our assets (e.g., tourism, people) and Town Councils efforts, and I feel I can continue to bring this leadership to our Team.

I strongly feel that the Town is in a unique position for growth with the Town of Wakaw’s recent initiatives, ambitious progressive plans and having the right people in place to make it all happen. As Mayor, I want to ensure that these plans continue, so that we can see the full potential of Wakaw and surrounding areas.

I’d be extremely honoured to serve our community as Mayor.

Patricia Robertson

Patricia Dawn Robertson has lived in Wakaw since 2004, where she and her life partner, D. Grant Block, restored a 1925 Eaton’s Catalogue house on 1st Street North. Robertson is a freelance journalist and editor, and like many of the local people, a passionate gardener. During the summers from 2012-2017, she and Black operated an heirloom organic vegetable business for urban customers. Prior to the pandemic lockdown, Robertson also founded and led, as a volunteer with the help of the Saskatchewan Health Authority, The Crooked Lake Collective Kitchen which encouraged cooking skills and bulk buying.

When asked what would make her qualified for the job of Mayor, Robertson shared that she has always been a leader. “I’m an eldest and I come from a family of leaders that made things happen. My late father, sportswriter and broadcaster John Robertson, helped to save the Riders from bankruptcy in 1979 through his fundraising and ticket sales around the province and coined the term “Rider Pride,” still in use by the team over 40 years later.” Her work portfolio includes non-profit management, fund raising, managing editor at a weekly newspaper, special events management and facilitator/trainer, as well as a small business start-up coach, and has taught marketing and communications to new entrepreneurs through a federal employment program. For 25 years, Robertson has operated her own remote business in the very competitive world of international journalism with articles in The Globe and Mail and The Boston Globe, and believes she can use those same skills to promote Wakaw. She holds a bachelor’s degree from York University in Toronto where she learned her critical thinking skills and the importance of grassroots community leadership.

Robertson says her leadership motto is: “Lead, follow or get out of the way.” Going forward, she says Wakaw needs strong leadership. “Where is our five-year plan? Where is the transparency and accountability? Since I’ve resided here, I’ve seen none of it.” Transparency is a crucial component of good governance, Council needs to invite people into the process. That’s how one builds community; that’s how one builds trust.

As for the main issue facing Wakaw right now, Robertson states that many homeowners have expressed to her their concerns about the escalating cost of their water bills. When she first moved to Wakaw in 2004, the base rate for water and sewer for three months was $140, the current rate is $404. The basic amenities of residential water and sewer, she states, has now become unaffordable, especially for single households, low-income families and seniors. Water and sewer is meant to be a service that the town provides to its residents, not a revenue stream as a substitute to economic development.

As mayor, Robertson says she would focus on economic development and growing Wakaw’s potential by leveraging the economic benefits of being so centrally located, having the lake in such close proximity, the substantial lakeside community and of course the Regional Park. Expanding Wakaw’s ‘brand’ will attract more tourism which will increase the taxbase and help support infrastructure costs like roads, water and sewer. Wakaw, she says, has not had any serious economic development activity since 2008 when the Serenity Cove canal-marina project collapsed and this needs to change.

Further, Robertson would make a serious bid to attract telecommuters. Wakaw needs to be promoted as a viable lifestyle option, she says, for telecommuters like herself, who work remotely on computers, who want to slow down, have access to basic services, live in a community where they feel a sense of connection and belonging, volunteer their time, pay property taxes and support local businesses.

As to what she thinks causes small voter turnout in municipal elections, Robertson feels that most people choose to focus on the bigger contests like the provincial and federal elections. And yet, municipal issues are local issues the directly impact every resident. As community members, everyone needs to engage. It’s too easy to become apathetic, she said, to easy to sit on the sidelines and complain without taking action to make tangible change.

On a final note, Robertson had this to say:

I’m a passionate volunteer and an idealist. I have a vision for Wakaw as a healthy, affordable and prosperous community. I’d like the opportunity to put my ideas to work. But I can’t do it alone. I’m going to need the input and help of every citizen to address the economic and social challenges we face in the coming years. I want people to know that I will be open and available to them as mayor and that I’ll work very hard on behalf of our community.

Also, as mayor, I would conduct a survey of community capacity. We have so much skill and talent in Wakaw. Let’s do a skill survey and find out how we can work together to grow Wakaw. This town has so much potential. I’d like to be of service to help my community grow and prosper. Citizens need engagement, economic development, purpose, trusted leadership, inclusion and hope. Those are the values I stand for as a potential mayor. Saskatchewan people are renowned for their work ethic. Why not harness that capacity? Instead, the citizens of Wakaw are left out of the political process. That’s why I wanted to run for office. I think Wakaw needs a change of leadership and I’m up for the job. If elected, I’ll work hard to ensure that every citizen has a voice and that Wakaw remains affordable for all residents.

Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wakaw Recorder