‘It really grows on you’: Joe Hordyski reflects on return as La Ronge mayor

Joe Hordyski went to La Ronge in 1988 to build one house as part of his contracting business.

“And then, I stayed,” he recalls.

Earlier this year, Hordyski was re-elected as the town’s mayor for the fifth time. He has a long history of service in local politics — he was first elected to town council in 1991, and spent four terms as mayor from 1997 until 2009, before trying provincial politics.

When his provincial run “didn’t work out,” he returned to the La Ronge town council in 2013 after community members encouraged him to run again.

“I had kind of put everything away, and then there was a land deal that happened,” he says. “There were 6.2 acres of land sold for $1,000, and I ended up doing a petition on it, because I felt strongly that it was not in the best interests of the town to see that amount of land go for so cheap. It sets a precedent, you know?

“So I went door-to-door and gathered about 700 signatures. And as I went around, people told me that I should get back on council — and so, I did.”

When former mayor Colin Ratushniak stepped down earlier this year, Hordyski was eager to run for the open seat.

“I felt, with all my experience, I would step forward,” he says. “And I was very fortunate, I got good support from the community and a strong mandate.”

Though Hordyski is originally from Prince Albert, once he moved to La Ronge, he knew he was there to stay, he says.

“The people in this community are so warm and friendly, and they make you feel like you’re at home. It didn’t take long for me to form friendships. I joined the Elks Club, I got involved coaching hockey — then I got busy with my council stuff. People here are very easy to know.”

La Ronge was also where he met his wife, and got interested in municipal politics.

“The more you get involved in the community, the more you start to see things that need doing,” he says. “And once you start to accomplish those things, it really grows on you, and you feel like you can do more.”

Reflecting on his early terms as mayor, Hordyski says he's proudest of the collaborative efforts between the town, the village of Air Ronge and the Lac La Ronge Indian Band. Together, the tri-community built a firehall, a recycling building and a handful of regional water plants.

In the decades that have passed since Hordyski first stepped into local politics, he says a lot has changed.

The need for new housing in the La Ronge area has become more pronounced, and he estimates the number of homeless people in town has doubled in the last decade.

“That concerns me,” he says.

There have been positive developments, too. La Ronge is on the cusp of expanding a new residential subdivision and building a truck stop along Highway 102, and the town is working on a downtown revitalization plan to bring more business into the area.

“I just see so many things that need to happen,” Hordyski says. “There are just so many positive things that can happen over the next two to four years, and it’s nice to be a part of that, and to be able to take a lead role in making sure that they are a success.”

Julia Peterson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The StarPhoenix