The newly acclaimed council for the Town of Crossfield was introduced to the public on Oct. 13, during a virtual meet-and-greet.
Unlike most Albertans, Crossfieldians do not need to vote for a new crop of local elected officials on Oct. 18. Because only seven candidates were registered for the vote by the nomination deadline, the town’s incoming council – made up of six councillors and a mayor – was acclaimed on Sept. 21. At the Oct. 13 event, residents had the chance to hear from their new representatives for the first time.
“I’d like to congratulate all of you for being acclaimed in your positions,” said event emcee and former Crossfield Elementary School principal Bob Rodgers. “The role of public service is one that is both challenging and rewarding. But it’s one that we don’t see a lot of acknowledgement of the sacrifices and service that go into this.”
Shawn Vang, Luke Brennan, and Jo Lambert are the three new faces on council, while incumbents Joanne Cornelssen, Justin Gustafson, and Mike Knight will continue to serve as Town councillors. Incumbent councillor Kim Harris was acclaimed as the new mayor.
Vang began the introductions, explaining that he attended school from Kindergarten to Grade 12 in Crossfield, and has various hobbies, including training dogs and Tae-Kwon-Do.
He also said he has extensive volunteer experience, including with the local elks’ club, and the Crossfield Fire Department.
“I am vitally interested in the promotion of small business in Crossfield,” Vang said, adding that other areas of concern for him include wastewater management, facility management, and more activities for youth being available in town.
Lambert, who put her name forward on the extended nomination deadline of Sept. 21, said she and her husband moved to Crossfield about five years ago, following their retirement. According to the new councillor, the pair ran the hardware store in Irricana, as well as a bed-and-breakfast in Beiseker, where she is an administrative employee for the local Village.
“At this point, I’ve been searching to give back to my community, and I thought that becoming a councillor, offering up my knowledge and experience, would be a good way to serve my fellow residents and help our home become the best it can be,” said Lambert, a former chief administrative officer and chief financial officer of various Albertan municipalities.
Next, the virtual audience heard from Coun. Knight, who explained his last five months of public service were valuable in understanding the time commitment required for municipal politics. Knight was one of two councillors elected in a May byelection, alongside Cornelssen.
His main points were regarding town recreational facilities, lodging for seniors, infrastructure, and local sports groups.
“I look forward to working with the new council here, as well as the administrative staff, and I think it will be a fantastic four years,” Knight said.
Harris, who will be Crossfield’s new mayor following her swearing-in on Oct. 26, said she and her family have lived in Crossfield since 2007, and she has been involved in municipal politics for more than two decades. Harris is currently an employee for the City of Airdrie.
“Crossfield is on the cusp of exponential growth and development. We’re at the perfect size to plan and develop Crossfield into what we all dream that it can be,” she said.
She explained her platform at length, and highlighted multiple focuses, including transparency and accountability, fiscal responsibility, and strategic planning.
Coun. Gustafson followed Harris, and said that he came to Crossfield 18 years ago to pursue a job opportunity to manage a start-up oil and gas rental company. He moved to town with his family in 2004.
“My goal as a councillor for the next four years is to commit to positive and respectful teamwork within council, so that our community will have responsible and innovative growth [for] its residents,” he said.
He highlighted the successes of council over the last term, including budget stability, and increasing the number of sitting councillors from five to seven as a way to maximize transparency and responsibility.
Returning councillor Cornelssen, who was first elected in the May byelection, said she has lived in Crossfield for 13 years, and has been a local business owner for 11 years.
“I don’t believe in making typical promises while campaigning, that I don’t know I can 100 per cent deliver,” she said. “I could have the greatest ideas but, in the end, it will still come down to a majority vote within the council as a whole, and what should be for the best interest of the community.”
Though Cornelssen said she doesn’t believe in platform promises, some of the initiatives at the top of her list include growing Crossfield’s small business community, creating feasible recreation facilities, and growing the town as a whole.
The last individual to introduce themselves was also the youngest. Brennan, who said he graduated high school in 2020, is also a volunteer firefighter and former yard hand at Howes Brothers Lumber.
According to Brennan, he is now pursuing a carpentry apprenticeship.
“I have a lot to learn, and I am going into this inexperienced,” he admitted, adding he is looking forward to learning from experienced councillors and administrative staff to guide him through his new role.
“It is my aim to learn for the Town of Crossfield and to bring to the table a different perspective. I believe my time spent living in Crossfield and listening to the people will allow me to make better decisions in order to support Crossfield’s development in a positive direction,” Brennan said.
The group was only presented with one question submitted from the public: What is the biggest issue facing Crossfield today, and how will you work with town council to address it?
Every member had the chance to answer, and responses included greater support for small businesses, filling vacant retail space, producing an economic development strategy, increasing government funding and overall operational cost, as well as upgrading infrastructure, and growth.
Lambert also highlighted the issue of trust between council and administration, considering the dysfunction that led to two councillors resigning in the spring of 2020 and the sudden departure of the Town’s former chief administrative officer earlier this year.
All six councillors and the new mayor will be sworn in on Oct. 26.