Mayor Steve Christie doesn’t mind criticism.
In fact, the newly re-elected mayor, who is ending the year by beginning a new term after a narrow election victory, welcomes it. Reflecting on the year 2013, Christie said that over his first term he learned that actively seeking out and including public input in City projects is a priority.
“Some people can take criticism negatively when it comes to projects or things happening with the City, but I tend to take it on as a challenge,” he said. “I’m not afraid of information. Information is what it is.”
Christie said campaigning before the election gave him an opportunity to come face-to-face with many people who he hadn’t met before, and to get a better handle on some prominent issues.
“You’re walking through neighbourhoods, you see all the cracks in the sidewalk, all the things you maybe wouldn’t see on a daily basis,” he said. “It’s a learning experience, it’s a reigniting of a flame – it definitely works against complacency.”
One of the issues that had to be re-evaluated earlier this year was the implementation plan for the solid waste road map.
“When we got to the implementation stage, there were citizens in the City of Lacombe that weren’t happy with the recommendations and the implementation so we put it on hold, we re-engaged the public.”
Though the City had initially gathered some feedback from the community, after hearing people were dissatisfied, they re-evaluated the plan and spent time asking for more input through open houses and written and online submissions. Using the new information, Christie said the City changed direction on some parts of the original plan.
This policy of consultation will colour many of the upcoming challenges that Christie and the City council will face in 2014. Spurring economic growth by working closely with the Lacombe Chamber of Commerce and dealing with the lack of housing in Lacombe by collaborating with the development community are both part of Christie’s plan going forward. A housing needs assessment conducted by an independent consultant in 2013 found Lacombe is in dire need of more affordable, higher-density housing.
Christie said the assessment is indicative of the cooperation that will be needed between the City and developers to address the problem.
“We didn’t get to what the housing needs assessment showed overnight. We got to this point together and we have to come out of this together.”
Christie and his council faced several challenges in 2013 and will come up against new ones in 2014, but that’s not to say most of the feedback the City received this year was negative. In fact, Christie said Lacombe has a lot to be proud of when looking back at the past 12 months.
This year the City engaged an outside consulting firm to conduct a citizen satisfaction survey that pulled in data from various demographics across the City.
“Ninety-six per cent of respondents to the survey rated overall quality of life in Lacombe from good to excellent,” said Christie. He is pleased with the results, and thinks it demonstrates that the city is on the right track.
“It says people love Lacombe, that they’re invested in Lacombe – that they love living here. I think that says that we’re probably doing something right.”
And it’s not just the people who live in the City who are impressed by where Lacombe is going. Moneysense magazine ranked Lacombe as the eighth best Canadian city to live in, up from the 26th in 2012.
“I think being rated the eighth best city in Canada in which to live is definitely a feather in Lacombe’s cap,” he said.
Other achievements that stand out for Christie in 2013 include successful events such as Lacombe Days, the Lacombe Culture and Harvest Festival, the Light Up the Night Festival and the attempt to set the Guinness World Record for the largest human Christmas Tree – a title Lacombe briefly held before it was snatched by the city of Taunton, Massachusetts on Dec. 7.
When asked if he had a message for citizens of Lacombe as they enjoy the holiday season and prepare to start a New Year, the mayor voiced his appreciation for everyone who volunteers or takes part in the various community activities throughout the year.
“Just thank you to each and every person that gets out there and takes interest. People are engaged here in Lacombe, and that’s great to see.”