While municipal elections aren’t until this November, the time for consideration for the next mayor and council is now.
There is a lot of work that goes with the role of Mayor or Councillor, Chief Administrative Officer Deborah Sargent with the Town of Smithers says, but a lot of benefits too.
“It’s important that people start thinking about this now even though the nomination period doesn’t start until October,” Sargent said. “There’s always discussions in the community before that in positioning of candidates.”
To be considered for Mayor or Council, a person must be nominated by two persons residing within the Town of Smithers boundaries, although the person nominated may not live within the town. They have to be 18 or older and a Canadian citizen as well.
“It is quite a commitment to be a member of council,” Sargent said.
In 2011, council will hold 21 regular meetings of council in addition to the committee and committee of the whole meetings. Committee of the whole meetings are there to discuss issues in full detail, Sargent said; currently on the table is parking and secondary suites.
Mayor and council are the ones who decide a plethora of things in the community, from zoning, a development application, priorities for the town’s development, crime prevention, tourism, a whole spectrum of decisions that need to be made to keep Smithers moving forward.
Interesting younger electorates is one challenge that many municipalities in Canada face, including Smithers. To entice some of the younger generations, the Town has established a Facebook page and will be trying to get the word out through other means as well, Sargent said.
“There seems to be a real gap right now between the age of those running for municipal politics and the age of the general population so it would be nice to see young people run,” Sargent said.
Sargent, who’s just returned from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities convention, mentioned how they have developed a guide hoping to increase female participation, but it has good tips and information for anybody interested to apply. Their goal it to see 30 per cent of mayor and council be female.
That guide is available on the FCM website, www.fcm.ca under “Issues” called “Women in Government”.
“It has a lot of really good general information,” Sargent said.
Anybody who’s interested in municipal politics also have the opportunity to come in to speak with staff, Sargent said, to see if this would be an opportunity for them.
“We’re always happy to talk to potential candidates just to give them an idea of the commitment involved, the committee structure, the issues they might be looking at,” Sargent said. “That’s what we can do to ensure we have a good turnout in terms of the people running.”
Nominations for candidates will be taken in from October 4 to 14 this year. One can either apply for the mayor’s position or for one of the six councillor positions available.
Following the receivership of the nominations, a period of campaigning will follow and the general election day will be Nov. 19. The inaugural meeting of the new council will meet Dec. 6 where they will be sworn in as well.
Three years from now that general voting day will be moved up to October to provide more opportunities for people to vote, Sargent said. Some years it’s been a challenge as the weather and road conditions can affect people’s abilities to get out and vote.
Hopefully, that change will help increase the number of registered voters who, in turn, vote. Voter participation in Smithers is generally around 30 per cent, not atypical for a municipal election in this province, Sargent said, who would like to see a higher per cent this year.