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Column: A Chat With the Mayor

Dick Nichols' monthly column Business Beat
Dick Nichols 0020

I had the opportunity to sit down with Mayor Tanya Thorn last week. We talked about the new Council and her priorities for the coming term. Here, in paraphrase, is some of what she said:

What does it feel like to be Mayor?

I’ve spent the last eight years preparing to take on this role, so I was able to jump in with both feet.

I’m seeing a reinvigorated Council. Once everybody’s consumed all the information that’s being fed to us like it’s coming out of the fire hose, I see us doing some great things and moving some needles.

Where do you see Okotoks going over the next four years?

In my campaign I outlined some things I personally would like to see, but Council will hold its strategic planning sessions after the New Year. At that point, we will all bring our ideas together and determine our top priorities.

I think we need to identify three or four Big Rocks that will move our community forward.

For me, one of them is community investment. We need new or improved mechanisms to support our current economy. Obviously, the Town is just one part of the economic mix, but there is a story line that says that Okotoks is hard to do business with. I think we need to work at changing that.

That means we look at what elements of that story are true and start to build the kinds of relationships that will change them. Our conversations with the business community should be more open so we can work together.

For example, I hear people say they want the Town of Okotoks to be more innovative, and I agree. But what I also hear is that when our staff try something a little bit outside the box, they’re often severely criticized. That tends to stifle innovation. People are not going to take risks if every time they do, they get overwhelmingly negative feedback.

We need to create partnerships that see us all striving for the same outcomes. And we need to create the kinds of trusting relationships that allow us to make progress even it means we occasionally make mistakes.

For the last two or three elections the underlying issue has been water. To what degree is a solution to this issue the basis for future growth?

I believe a long-term water solution is the basis for everything else. I know some residential developers who choose to build in other communities rather than deal with the water issue in Okotoks.

The water issue also impacts industrial and commercial development because, for example, it creates uncertainty about whether there will be enough resources for growth if a business locates here.

That said, I think we’ve done all the necessary legwork and the solution is in front of us. There are still some details left to finalize. but I think we’re on target to have shovels in the ground.