Helping your community as an elected official

As The Mayor Sees It with District of Barriere Mayor Bill Humphreys

With the election not too far away some residents might wonder what the role of an elected official might entail.

One of the responsibilities is that as a member of council you will be expected to read the meeting agenda and the staff reports that go with the agenda items prior to the meetings. You will need to be prepared to give an informed opinion on any issues or staff recommendations that are provided in the reports.

In the District of Barriere, the meeting packages are sent out to the councillors usually very late Friday. In my opinion this is not acceptable. Having the packages ready so late in the week causes council to spend their weekend going over the material. Additionally there is no time to ask staff to clarify any portion of the material that may be confusing.  This can and does lead to wasted time at the meeting. There is considerable time between regular council meetings, and there is no reason that the council agenda packages could not be ready on the Wednesday prior to the scheduled meeting.

The procedure that allows for the packages to be given so close to the start of the meeting is decided by council. When elected, should you decide that a shift in this procedure is needed it is an easy fix. There is no need to spend your weekend family/private time going over the agenda package.

You may be asked to attend some meetings that are outside of the scheduled regular council meetings. My advice is that you do not attend a meeting that has no agenda.

An informal gathering is fine, but all structured meetings require at least a simple list of topics and an agreed upon agenda so that all parties are prepared and can make meaningful contributions.

The preparation and research around the topics to be discussed are the responsibility of staff. This is where having knowledgeable staff is critical. Improper and downright bad decisions come out of ill-advised recommendations and incorrect information.

As an elected official you are responsible for the decisions you make. Some issues are indeed complicated, but you have the right to ask for information and a duty to check that it is accurate. Never be bullied into believing or accepting a report you think is inaccurate. You were elected because your peers trusted your judgment and no harm is done asking questions.

No elected official is expected to be a contract lawyer or an expert on legislative procedure. Once you are elected there are a number of courses available that will enable you to gain the knowledge to fulfill your responsibilities with a measure of confidence. If you like to learn, and are happy to interact with others to make things happen an elected position can be a very rewarding experience.

It is my opinion that as a member of council you should try to attend certain functions both in the community and as a representative of the community at other venues. For example, if the District is notified that we were successful on a grant and the presentation will be held in Kamloops, Clearwater or wherever else to accommodate most of the parties involved, I always attend as a sign of respect and to show appreciation to those that worked to get us the grant.

Community events like Canada Day, Legion Week, North Thompson Fall Fair and Rodeo are all on the list of things that as an elected official it is a good thing to go out and have some fun with the community. There is no rule saying that you have to attend, but this is the fun part of the position. Plus it allows you to check how the community views the actions and decisions of council.

In truth, putting your name forward to run for office is a big decision. It can be a challenge to balance your home life, your work and the responsibilities of the position. In the end though, there are few things that are more important or self satisfying than helping to make your community a better place to live.

Life can be better for everyone through your efforts. Don’t be afraid to try.