A long-time resident of Okotoks wants to serve at the council table.
Dan Onerheim has lived in Okotoks for 22 years after being raised in Foothills County. He said being part of the community for so many years has given him a unique perspective.
“I’ve seen the problems experienced not only locally, but also on a regional basis, and I’ve seen the expansion of Okotoks from just under 3,000 people to where we are now at 30,000-plus,” said Onerheim.
As a business owner in town, running Life Link EMS ambulance and medical services, he is privy to the challenges faced in the local economy.
With corporate experience in sales, marketing and management, as well as involvement with non-profit organizations such as the Okotoks Pro Rodeo and Okotoks Ag Society, Onerheim said he’s well-equipped to sit on council.
Past involvement with business and organizations has allowed him to develop skill in budgeting and implementing cost-effective solutions, he said.
“I think I’m very fiscally responsible,” said Onerheim, adding he would treat the Town finances as though it was his own money and ensure it is well-spent with proper cost analysis.
Onerheim is no stranger to the campaign - he also ran for council in the 2017 election. In preparation for that election and through the past four years, Onerheim said he has read through council agendas and minutes to keep abreast of what’s happening within the municipality.
“That’s so I can understand what’s going on in the community and what’s going on before council, what decisions are they making and how they affect the community as whole,” said Onerheim.
He currently sits on the Town’s Assessment Review Board, an appointment he said has provided a better understanding and new perspective on listening to residents.
It’s about hearing people and representing their opinions, he said.
“That’s what you’re elected for – to listen and to be their voice,” said Onerheim.
One of the top issues he’s keen to settle is the long-term water supply for Okotoks.
The work done to-date is valuable, but he said it’s time to get it resolved after dealing with water issues for 20 years.
“It would be the number-one priority for me, and then we can focus on things like business retention and expansion, and creating a more vibrant and inclusive community,” said Onerheim.
His second priority is ensuring proper engagement and representation of Okotoks residents during all decision-making.
Improving communication and making council more accessible to residents for two-way conversation is key. It could be done through email, phone calls, in-person chats and coffee sessions, he said.
“I’d like to listen to people to make an informed decision, which is critical as a council member,” said Onerheim.
Making public engagement more friendly and objective is also important, he said. That includes ensuring surveys are not biased and allow for more subjective responses and real opinions.
“They need to capture the pulse of the community, and not what is wanted by a special interest group or administration,” said Onerheim.
As far as business goes, he said the next council needs to attract more commercial and light industrial opportunities, including distribution centres.
Expanding the non-residential tax base is the goal, he said, but current business owners also need support and collaboration with Town decisions that may impact their operations.
“They’ve all gone through 18 months of hardship with the restrictions of the COVID pandemic and we have to assist them where possible, but that can only be done through good, two-way engagement and working with them,” said Onerheim.
In the interest of economic development for Okotoks, he said council should revisit the Calgary Metropolitan Region Board growth plan, which doesn’t seem to offer a lot of benefits for the town’s residents.
“We need to have a strong council to ensure we are not lost or swallowed up by what the City of Calgary wants,” said Onerheim.
Affordable housing is also top-of-mind for the council hopefully, who said more inclusive options for those with mobility or financial issues must be considered in future development.
“I can see council and Town administration offering incentives to developers to build these types of homes,” said Onerheim.