Councillors must listen, and learn
Holding elected municipal office is both exciting and rewarding.
The opportunity to become involved in municipal government is open to anyone who has pride in the community and a willingness to spend time ensuring government serves its citizens well.
The ability of the municipal government to set policies, laws and deliver services determines what returns citizens get for the money they invest in the institution.
We all need good, solid and basic municipal services.
Serving the community and leading the community go hand in hand.
One needs to be able to listen to others, as well as to be able to present one’s own ideas and thoughts clearly.
There is a value in being able to appreciate opposing perspectives, and one has to be well informed to make hard and difficult decisions when needed.
And those decisions are needed!
Decision-making is an integral part of the role of an elected municipal official.
Background information needs to be read, considered or heard.
Whether it is taxpayers’ letters or presentations, or staff recommendations, or personal experience and beliefs, it is important that all are heard and considered.
Sometimes becoming well-informed on unfamiliar issues can take quite some time.
I served one term, in the position of Whitehorse city alderman, almost 20 years ago.
It was an exhilarating experience.
It was a truly significant learning experience.
Some of my fellow elected officials became my longterm friends.
The experience allowed me some understanding of how our municipal government works, and how it interacts with its citizens and senior levels of government.
At the Yukon level, it was always good to get together with other elected municipal officials from other communities, to share our concerns through the Association of Yukon Communities.
A municipal government needs to reflect the community that it serves.
Elected officials represent a cross section of citizens and bring a reflection of the values, beliefs and hopes of the community to the decision making table.
Not only is it good to have different perspectives at that table, it is essential.
Citizen input is always vitally important and it is good to encourage that in any way possible.
In my day, we had boards, which served this function, and they also served as a learning place for those people who may consider running for an elected position.
If a person is considering becoming an elected official, it is important to understand the office does involve considerable time attending to municipal responsibilities.
As a wife, mother and daughter, actively involved in our family life, I did find that I spent a considerable amount of time away from my family.
Municipal government is close-to-home government.
It covers lots of nuts and bolts issues — daily issues — that are taken for granted until, perhaps, they go wrong.
It affects you, your friends and neighbours each day, whether on the transit system, as a homebuilder, a motorist, an athlete at a municipal facility, a recycler or a dog owner — and the list goes on.
If you are reading this and considering taking the plunge into municipal politics, good for you, it is a well worthwhile challenge.
This is the third in a series of columns about serving on municipal council prepared by the Association of Yukon Communities.
Truska Gorrell is a former Whitehorse alderman.