By Nikki Jamieson
Sunny South News
After serving 10 years on the Picture Butte town council, Mayor Wendy Jones will serve the town for just one more week.
After serving two terms as council and one as mayor, Jones will be retiring from council.
“I’d like to thank the ratepayers of Picture Butte for putting their trust in me 10 years ago when I first ran for council, and then reinforcing that trust when I ran for council three years later,” said Jones. “My time on council has been full of ups and downs, good times and stressful times, but through it all I have always tried to do what’s best for every ratepayer. I have enjoyed working with a variety of personalities, and have tried to listen to everyone’s concerns.
“I have decided it is time to begin another chapter in my life, sit back and enjoy life.”
Jones, a long time resident of Picture Butte, had been interested in what was going on in council since the 1970s, when Picture Butte town council began publishing minutes in the Sunny South News.
However, it wasn’t until about 2005 did she start getting really involved, first rallying fellow residents against a controversial council decision, getting that decision reversed after successful petition got enough names to take the issue to a plebiscite, in which people voted against the decision. In 2007, she successfully ran for council, after getting encouragement to do so.
“Then I had people bugging me, saying ‘Do you want to run, do you want to run?’, and I did. 2007 was the first year I came on council.”
Looking back at some of council’s major accomplishments during her years as a councilor, she brought up the water treatment plant issue from her first term. A new water treatment plant had been built in the town to treat their water, but as it was drawing water from otherwise still water. Before the plant was built, the town was getting treated LNID water from a flowing water source, but after the plant was built it began using water from a nearby lake. Still, or stagnant, water is harder to clean properly, and council decided that it was too hard to upkeep the plant due to the water troubles, and put in a water line from Lethbridge.
“It wasn’t cleaning our water properly and we were having boil water (advisories all the time, because it’s very difficult to clean water that is stagnant,” said Jones, noting that the plant itself had been expensive to build, and they were having to pay more to replace membranes every few years on top of it. “We worked very diligently with the Alberta government — who weren’t very happy about giving Picture Butte money again for water— and got our water line in from Lethbridge.
“To sustain that new plant, it wasn’t worth it. This way, we were guaranteed clean water from Lethbridge all the time. It costs our ratepayers a little bit more, because we always have to pay the same amount per cubic meter, but in the long run, safer for our ratepayers.”
Another major accomplishment for council was the arena renovations in her second term. The town’s arena was built in the early 1980s, and had little done to it since, and at one point had to be shut down for repairs. It had needed new machinery and equipment to keep running, and Jones was put in charge of fundraising for it.
“Our community was awesome. We raised $189,000 in one day for our arena, which I think is huge, said Jones. “
“We had a fun day at the arena, we had different things going on, we had different bands playing, we had a beer garden in the curling club, we had a prime ribs supper, different draws, a silent auction and a live auction, and at the end of the day, we had $189,000. It shows you what an awesome community we have.”
In 2013, Jones decided to run for the mayor’s seat, which she won by acclamation after her opponent bowed out. With her becoming mayor, there came a few new changes to Picture Butte town council as well. Council terms went from three years to four years, and in addition to the majority of councilors being new, council had also downsized, going from seven seats to five.
“The challenges of getting people to run in a small town were making it so we weren’t having an election, everyone was getting in by acclamation or we had to leave the nomination open another day to get enough people to run” said Jones. “What we did on my second term as council, was we looked back wondering why we, as such a small municipality, had seven people on council, when most of our neighbouring municipalities — Coalhurst, Nobleford – close to our size, only had five (on council). What we discovered, what we found out, was that was up to us to decide.
“That previous council, we decided to go down to five so we would have enough nominations to have an election.”
Especially with smaller municipalities, there is a fear of not being able to get enough people to run. For example, the town of Vauxhall — which was of similar size to Picture Butte then according to the 2011 census — made provincial headlines when some obscure contingencies under the Local Authorities Election Act and Municipal Government Act nearly came into play when it appeared as if they wouldn’t get enough nominations to fill their council, which currently has seven seats. The Vauxhall Advance reported similar issues this year in a Sept. 28 article, with only five people putting their names forward, and has reached out to Municipal Affairs to see if they can shrink their council size down to five.
“That’s one of the reasons we went from seven to five, to make sure we’ll always have an election, or close, at least enough people to run.”
The town of Picture Butte this year will have an election for councilor seats only, as coun. Cathy Moore ran for the mayor’s seat unopposed and has since been acclaimed to council. Five people — Robert Brander, coun. Henry de Kok, coun. Teresa Feist, Cynthia Papworth and coun. Joe Watson — are running for four seats. Jones has “every confidence” that Moore will do a good job as mayor.
“I would suggest you keep an open mind, ask lots of questions, and remember: ‘no one person can do it all,” said Jones, on what advice she would give to the new council. “You will do great things for our town if you work as a team.”
With Jones’ new free time, you may find her relaxing at her place on Lake Koocanusa, and getting back into hobbies. She also plans on seeing her children and grandchildren more, as they have moved away from the Picture Butte area.
Although Jones will be enjoying her retirement from council, she will miss all the people she met while on council, despite living in the town for 50 years.
“I met a lot of new people, and the one thing I am going to miss is if I go to the grocery store for a gallon of milk, it takes me an our, because everybody stops and talks (about council),” said Jones. “A lot of it’s complaints, but a lot of it’s good stuff.”