Lacombe County Councillor Rod McDermand is seeking another term at the council table.
Voters head to the polls on Oct. 16th.
McDermand was first elected to Lacombe County back in 2001, so his municipal experience is extensive.
That’s also reflected in his work on a number of organizations and committees over the years as well including serving as president of the Alberta Hospitals Association, board chair for Alberta Blue Cross, serving on a regulatory board for credit unions in Alberta. “The last provincial one I was on was the Management Employees Pension Board,” he said.
As for his long service, McDermand describes a main motivation as coming from serving as a conduit between municipal government and the public at large.
“We are really a service provider for our residents,” he said, adding that the main role of council is to work to facilitate the need of the owners, which is the term he believes best suits the ratepayers in general.
“We need to recognize the owners because they are the ones who will elect us or not elect us,” he said. “I firmly believe that I only represent them collectively.
“I don’t represent myself – I don’t represent necessarily the County of Lacombe. It’s more of a directorship on a corporation. And we’re a pretty big corporation, with $65 million worth of budgets. It’s not to be taken lightly because there’s a lot of things that can go on with a command of that kind of budget as well,” adding the council is also supported by great County employees and administration.
“It’s not about me – it’s about helping other people,” he said. “It’s also about capacity and qualifications – you need to have some capacity which comes from time, but you also have to have some experiences that will help the corporation serve its owners – being the ratepayers.”
In the meantime, upcoming issues for the future council also include adjusting to working more directly with several surrounding municipalities.
“The structure we have as far as the taxation and the development and the commercial spaces, that was done on a voluntary basis by Lacombe County,” he said, referring working with such municipalities as Blackfalds and Lacombe.
He said there can be a struggle with how to partner on an equal, equitable basis for other areas that also may not be areas of significant growth.
“It’s really a struggle for us, because those areas aren’t necessarily growing at the same pace. Our job is not to engage other municipalities to make them grow; our job is to partner with them when they do grow. It’s significantly different than us being the driver,” he said. “It’s not fair for us to go into a community and say this is a great idea, we think you should do this. Our job is to facilitate something in a partnership.”
The provincial government has introduced a concept that McDermand describes as the formation of a collaborative framework.
“This is going to be one of the biggest steps that we go through. As we are hearing it, we are going to be signing agreements with over 21 different municipalities.” This inevitably brings together planning aspects and capital budget aspects.
Meanwhile, McDermand is looking forward to the next several weeks as the campaign trail heats up.
“I always look forward to it, because lots of times we kind of work in a vacuum,” he said. “And what comes into the County Council Chamber isn’t necessarily what people are thinking about.
“So when you are knocking on doors and talking to people, I really like to be engaged with that. I think that is a privilege that we shouldn’t walk away from. I also spend a lot of time at the coffee shops and places like that – three or four times a week. That’s where people are talking, and they are always talking about issues.
“If you are nervous about being in the coffee shop and being visible, you sure shouldn’t be in this business. I’m fairly comfortable with people. And like I say, I’m a conduit – but sometimes conduits catch it from both ends – you’ve got to careful that you respect that right. People often look at you with a certain degree of ownership; when a person steps up and votes for you, they actually get a little piece of you. I accept that.
“I’ve always said that when I vote for someone at the federal or provincial level, I feel like I have a right to phone them up and give them my views,” he said.
“So don’t put your name on the ballot and then just go away and hide. That isn’t going to happen – they will search you out,” he added with a smile.
At the end of the day, it’s a fulfilling job. “In my area, there’s a little school house where I went to school. We struggle for the community’s sake to keep that going. Last year, at Christmas, there were 43 little kids running around (at an event there) from our community. So there’s a rejuvenation going on.
“That gives vitality to things, and I look at that with optimism.”