Mayor Wilks Inaugural Speech

Good Afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen, family and friends.

I would like to start by thanking the outgoing Mayor and Council for their dedication over the past four years.  I would also like to thank my wife Cindy for her unwavering support over 13 ½ years in municipal, regional and federal politics.

On October 20th the citizens of Sparwood went to the polls to elect a new Mayor and Council.  I would like to congratulate my fellow council members here today for securing a seat on council. I would also like to thank those who let their name stand for Mayor or Council. I have heard people say “who lost”. My answer is always the same, there are no losers.  Those who put their name forward for any level of politics put their name out there because they want to make a difference in the way their community goes forward.  I have deep appreciation for anyone who lets their name stand at any political level.

Now to the order of the day.

This Council has been tasked to work hard and diligent over the next four years and I look forward to a productive and progressive term. 

I am honoured to return to a level of politics which I believe is the most important level of governance, because it is the most accountable and most rewarding.  I enjoy the interaction with people whether it be at Save On Foods where a 10-minute stop can take an hour, where people can call you at home and hold you accountable for local decisions, but most importantly where Council can make a difference in the future of our great town.

Our duty as a Council is to map out Sparwood for the future, not just for the next 4 years, but 20 or 30 years from now.

I know from experience that everything takes time, but as long as Council is determined and gives good guidance to staff great things can happen.

I believe that starts with “outside the box ideas”. That is why I challenge my fellow council members to come up with ideas which will move our community forward, encourage growth and most importantly set the bar for other communities to follow.

Some examples of that are our made at home tax exemption bylaw.

We were one of the first community’s in the province to start the process of LED street lighting which saves the community money.

We created walking trails which connect one portion of our town to the other and at the same time eliminating water and sewer lines under the Elk River. 

We worked with Teck to supply water to the residents of Michel Creek Road and GN Road to have a safe supply of potable water.

So where do we go from here. 

I would like Council to consider providing more recreational opportunities for those who live in Sparwood and also for those we hope to attract to live here.  One such thing I would like to see is an indoor soccer complex along with an indoor walking track.  I would also like to see our ball fields and skate park lit.

I would like to put together a committee of community members to give recommendations that can be acted on to update our Recreation Centre and related facilities which are bursting at the seams.  I would like to see this done immediately as there are some grant opportunities which are time sensitive. 

I can also speak from experience than in the year of a federal election money seems to flow to communities a little easier.

I have also heard that we should build a new community Centre, one that can house 500 - 800 people.  I believe this would be a great addition to our community as it continues to grow.  It would give us the opportunity to host events which we cannot right now due to space limitation.  I look forward to hearing from Council on this issue.

I would like to work toward revitalization of Centennial Square.  I would like Council to work with the Royal Canadian Legion and move our cenotaph to Centennial Square and move our mining exhibits from Centennial Square to Titan Park which has become a focal point for mining history. I believe by doing this we would create more usable public space.  There are federal grants available for this type of transformation and I believe it would breath new life into Centennial Square.

I will ask Council to do a full review of our staffing levels within the District of Sparwood and ensure that we live within our means, but also ensure that the people of Sparwood are best served in such places as public works. 

One of the most contentious issues is snow removal. We must ensure that we have exceptional snow removal with all employees at public works being able to run our graders and other snow removal equipment at maximum efficiency.  If that means additional manpower, so be it. 

Finally, Council will continue to have meaningful dialog with Teck Coal on a number of issues to ensure Teck’s social licence to operate in our community is one that is fair but firm.  We will hold Teck accountable with regards to the dust issues and ensure they are open and transparent to the citizens of Sparwood.  One of the ways this can occur is to add additional air quality monitoring stations and then have Teck report quarterly the results of those tests including what is contained in the dust.  The citizens of Sparwood have a right to know what is in the dust.

This council will work hard to ensure we continue to be a progressive town which we are all proud to call home and with that let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work.

Thank you.

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