Four-year terms for elected officials: Mayor and aldermen weigh in
The Alberta government moved to change the terms of elected municipal officials from three years to four years in October 2012, a move that was aimed at cutting back on election costs.
The move aligns municipal terms with that of the provincial and federal governments, as well as many municipalities in other provinces.
Airdrie Mayor Peter Brown announced on Aug. 26 that he would run for re-election. Brown said the time commitment involved with a four-year term was something that weighed on his decision.
“I would have preferred a three-year term to be honest,” said Brown. “Municipal government works on a different schedule, they’re totally different jobs, we work a lot more closely with the people than an MP or an MLA.”
Brown says while he prefers a three–year term he can see how a four -year term could prove advantageous and he hopes more will be accomplished in the coming term.
“The first three years went by very quickly and I think an extra year would have afforded us the opportunity to close the loop on some things,” said Brown. “We could have wrapped up our land use bylaw and reached decisions on the transportation issues we’ve been looking at as far as weekend transit and transit into Balzac and to the LRT in Calgary.”
Alderman Glenda Alexander has not yet announced her intentions for re-election, but says the shift from three-year terms to four years is a good idea and that it hasn’t factored into her decision.
“I was always puzzled as to why it was three years and not four,” said Alexander. “The first year on council is very overwhelming and it’s not until the second year that you really get your feet under you and then in the third year you feel as though you’re really providing some great input, but at that point you’re thinking about another election.”
Alexander was first elected to Airdrie City council in 2004 and after Alderman Fred Burley, is the longest serving current member of council in consecutive years.
Alderman Ron Chapman, who announced on Aug. 26 that he will be running for re-election, echoed Alexander’s statements and stands behind the idea of a four-year term.
“As much as many of the members of this council may not want to admit it, during that third year you do spend a lot of time thinking about the upcoming election,” said Chapman. “I think with the extra year, it gives us a chance to get more accomplished.”
Chapman followed up by saying the extra year will not affect the process of making decisions and timelines won’t be changed.
“It’s not going to stretch out the decision- making process, we’re not going to be looking at it in terms of having an extra year, we’ll still be following the same processes” said Chapman. “It would’ve been nice to have had a four-year term in place already, because it was this council that fought so hard to get the 2014 Alberta Summer Games here (in Airdrie), it would be nice to have the entire council in tact to see that work come to fruition next summer.”
Alexander also touched on the subject of being able to witness the things that council has fought for, but that timelines and lengths of terms shouldn’t be a concern.
“In the nine years I’ve been on council, I have seen some things come to fruition and others that haven’t,” said Alexander. “What’s more important though, is if I do decide to step away from council is to know that whoever is stepping in is going to be able to carry on what this council has been working for; you want to know that the right people are going to be in place, regardless of how long the term is.”
Brown said while the added time commitment may factor into some aldermen’s decision to run for council, it could lead to more turnover for another reason.
“With the extra year to get things done now, you never know, someone may get on council for one term and accomplish everything they set out to and then step away,” said Brown.
“It’s a much different time commitment now though when you’re talking two terms as eight years as opposed to six.”
The 2013 municipal election will be held on Oct. 21. For more information on the election, visit www.airdrie.ca