Voters will decide next week who is best to serve them in local government for the next four years, but a new face of municipal government is already beginning to emerge.
Thirty-three towns, villages and rural municipalities out of 197 have already returned their councils to office by acclamation, the same number without contests as in 2006.
In some places races are extremely tight with as many as a dozen or more candidates vying for various ward positions in places such as the rural municipalities of Armstrong, La Broquerie, De Salaberry, St. Clements and Tache.
Elsewhere, interest in local elections has been so low, seats will remain vacant after Oct. 27. The municipalities of Cartier, Stanley, Lansdowne, Louise and the town of Gretna all have vacant seats on councils, with no candidates having sought the job.
No one wanted the job of mayor in Benito. In other places as many as four want the head of council’s job, such as in the town of Birtle, and cities of Brandon and Dauphin.
The town of Grandview is set to make history next week when voters there will choose from an all-female slate of candidates.
Six women are seeking councillor positions including two incumbents in the Parkland community of 839 residents. Acclaimed Grandview mayor, Tom Bohun, who steps into his new role after 15 years on council said he’s glad to see women in their community showing interest in the job.
“I look forward to working with them,” he said.
AMM executive director Joe Masi said it appears there is more interest overall in the 2010 elections than four years ago.
“I haven’t actually counted, but I understand that there are more candidates in this election than in the last,” he said. “And there certainly are some very interesting races happening,” he added.
MWI LEADERSHIP SERIES
Meanwhile, the Manitoba Women’s Institute is already looking ahead to 2014 in hopes of boosting the numbers of potential candidates among rural women.
The provincial women’s organization this fall launched a series of workshops to spur more women to consider both roles as elected officials in the next elections, as well as more active leadership at all levels of community service.
Joan Clement, the new 2010 president-elect of the Manitoba WI, is also seeking the job of major in the town of Russell this year.
“I really think it’s important to get more women involved in both small ‘p’ and larger ‘p’ politics,” Clement said. “I want to encourage more people to run.”
Eileen Clarke, acclaimed mayor of Gladstone for a second term was one of four guest speakers in a recent panel discussion hosted by the MWI as part of its ongoing fall leadership workshops.
Clarke told a small gathering in Portage la Prairie that when she was initially asked to run for council back in 2006 she was against the idea.
“It was absolutely something I did not want to do,” she said.
But the retired businesswoman now says time in office has been one of the most fulfilling and educational experiences of her life, and she’s buoyed by progress now seen in her community including population growth and “age-friendliness” development.
Likewise Ruth Ann Furgala, first elected as a school trustee in Evergreen School Division in 1993 is today the vice-president of the Canadian Association of School Boards.
More rural residents, having relatively easier access to forms of public service by the very fact of lack of people available for the roles, should be actively seeking these opportunities, the women said.
“But if you’d told me 17 years ago that I’d be president- elect of a national oragnization one day I’d have said, ‘pardon me? I don’t think so.’” [email protected]