Incumbent councillor Kevin Stott is back on the campaign trail and hopeful that, on October 26, residents of Niverville will send him back to the council chambers for another term.
Having a few new faces in the running for council this year, he says, makes things more interesting.
“It is always nice to have more than just incumbents running,” Stott says. “You do have to have a change in council sooner or later… Anytime anyone [new] runs, your job is up for grabs.”
At the same time, Stott anticipates that voters will also see the importance of keeping some continuity on council to help keep the current momentum going. With 12 straight council years under his belt—and 16 years on council in total—he believes he can be that person.
His advice to new candidates is that they should be fully cognizant of the role council members play in a community. First-time councillors should expect it to take years before they fully find their stride, Stott says, recalling his own first term.
Among the many learning curves of council work is the give and take, and sometimes personal sacrifice, that’s required when five members of council all come to the table with different ideas. Some councils do that better than others, Stott concludes.
“All the councils I’ve been on have been good,” he says. “I have really enjoyed this council that I’ve been with for the last eight years now. We work very well together and get along very well.”
A hot topic for all of Stott’s years on council has been that of wastewater management. The constant need for ever-expanding lagoons and the issue of aging sewer infrastructure are the stuff that consumes so much of council’s time and energy.
For this reason, the recent collaboration of four municipalities to create a solution for a shared wastewater treatment plant, Stott says, was a proud moment for him and the rest of council. It’s a solution that should save residents of Niverville and their neighbours a lot of tax dollars.
Stott fondly recalls his first term on council when another monumental stride was made in sewage solutions. This, too, was a forward-thinking council, well ahead of its time in terms of environmental sustainability.
It began with the need to remediate a saturated lagoon. It continued with the novel idea to use a natural solution, which resulted in a beautiful wetlands area that the whole community can enjoy. That project won a prestigious award for Excellence in Sustainability, garnering the attention of soil scientists and land reclamation experts across Canada.
It also saved Niverville taxpayers $1.25 million in remediation costs.
Stott says he first came to council in 2002 with a desire to maintain the integrity of the community’s smalltown feel. He soon realized, though, that to stay small means to become stagnant and eventually die.
“I went on a little trip to Snowflake, Manitoba that year,” he says. “The people there told me what Snowflake used to be like and how it was an [economic hub]… When I was there, they had just finished selling the arena. There were no grocery stores and they’d just bulldozed six houses because they couldn’t sell them. That’s what stagnation [does].”
Since then, he’s made it his mission to set a course for community growth. This, he says, has been of benefit to every single resident and business owner. Growth is what drives up the price of real estate, turning everyone into a winner.
It’s this same growth, he adds, that allowed council to bring in amenities such as the CRRC and the new high school. And the ground was barely settled before the CRRC became home to the new Niverville Nighthawks. Providence University College also plays its home volleyball and basketball games at the facility.
“Niverville’s always been known to have some good quality sports teams, but we weren’t always able to host some of the big tournaments because our facilities weren’t big enough,” Stott says. “Now we hope we can.”
Another achievement of Stott’s last four years is the booming growth of the industrial park. This growth, he says, has been and will continue to be of utmost importance in terms of job creation and the town’s self-sustainability.
“I don’t think a bedroom community is what anybody wants here. If you look around, we probably have close to 1,500 jobs in town now… and when you’re around that [number], you’re actually importing workers to town,” he says. “When you sit there and watch in the morning, there’s as much traffic coming into town as there is going out.”
Looking to the next four years, Stott says council will continue to have its hands full as it works out solutions to a lot of unanswered questions related to growth.
For instance, the added cost of policing a growing community is something council will need to solve.
And if the focus is to continue making Niverville a regional health centre, council will be driven to attract more medical professionals and services. Seniors housing, daycares, and schools are also among the many things that will need serious consideration.
“A lot of thought will need to go into where [these things will go] before there’s no room left for them,” Stott says.
But Stott says that he comes from a long line of community champions and problem-solvers. He is a third-generation resident of the area. His children and grandchildren make five generations on this soil.
Long-timers to Niverville can attest to the fact that there’s nary a committee or organization that one Stott or another hasn’t had their hand in.
“I grew up here, I love my community, and I want to see it continue to do better,” Stott says.
This is why council work has been a passion and not a duty for Stott.
When asked about the need for more diversity on council, he muses over a standing joke that has the current council members pegged as “male, pale, and stale.” But, he says, there doesn’t need to be gender, skin colour, or age diversity when it comes to representing your community well.
As a father, grandfather, son, brother, and husband, he’s confident he’s got the tools to understand most needs. For those that he doesn’t, he’s willing to listen and learn.
Stott says he’s received much encouragement to throw his hat back in the ring. At the end of the day, though, it doesn’t matter who runs for council if voters don’t show up at the polls.
“We need a good voter turnout no matter who you’re voting for.”
Brenda Sawatzky, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Niverville Citizen