Residents of Stirling can rest easy knowing their new council has set a goal to beautify and improve their village, an objective they hope to work with many different community groups on.
“The (recently proposed) walking trail would go a long way to doing that,” Mayor Ben Nilsson said of the beautification of the municipality. “The scope of the design for it is actually quite impressive.”
Another goal for the new council team, comprising of returning coun. Members Mike Maynes, Jonathan Bikman and Jason Edwards, as well as new Coun. Trevor Lewington and Mayor Nilsson, are ongoing paving projects.
“As a council I think infrastructure is our main concern. I think it would be hard to move forward on a lot of things if infrastructure and roads aren’t in place,” Nilsson said. “For whatever reason it’s 2014 and we still don’t have paved roads, it’s just one of those things that’s always first and foremost.”
Being as small as Stirling is, budget is always a big issue. However Nilsson says the last three councils have made “lots of headway in that area,” and with three returning council members consistency shouldn’t be an issue.
Although this is Nilsson’s first term on council, politics have always interested him and having grown up in Stirling, he feels a “deep love for the community.”
“My ancestors were one of the first to come and settle that area, so I do feel a sense of responsibility and the opportunity came up at the recent election (to run),” he said of his decision to run for council. “To be honest I wasn’t expecting to be the mayor, I was just hoping for a place so that really was quite surprising to me. It was quite touching and I hope I can take the confidence that the residents placed in me and turn it into something good.”
Issues like the province taking money away rather than infusing it within also tweaked Nilsson’s interest, and as an active thinker and involved community member he felt able to contribute.
“We are unique in that a lot of rural Alberta is shrinking, but Stirling is growing and I think we would like to see that continue. And part of that is to put things in place to make it possible and to make the community attractive, with that goes the beautification of the community itself,” he said.
“And maybe changing the way we have thought about things in the past, not that, that way of thinking was bad, but change is inevitable.”
In terms of budget council plans to cut where possible and streamline where available, making things run more efficiently overall.
Establishing and maintaining an active relationship with the community has also been identified as a goal for the new council.
“That along with infrastructure, in 2014, are some of the things council is really trying to move forward on. The last council really started to work with other communities closely and we hope to continue to improve those relationships for the benefit of all,” Nilsson explained. “In these communities we are all similarly like-minded. We are, relatively speaking, small communities and have that small community feel and that’s what we want for our community.”
Nilsson added that if the municipalities in the area can find a way to work together in many different areas, one of them being collaborative grants, the budget cuts will take care of themselves.
“Our goal is to bring Stirling to the next level, where we have had modest growth, and it’s been wonderful, but we hope to maintain it and move forward with it and a lot of that has to do with beautification,” he said of the next four years.
“We are kind of selling the community as a whole. It’s a pretty wonderful place, really and a lot of that has to do with the people who did live there and the people who live there now. There’s just a feeling about that community that makes it feel like a pretty special place.”
Moving forward with the next four years council would also like to be more involved with the community and get more input from residents. Council will also be spending some time strategizing on how to make communication between the two entities easy and convenient.
“We are elected officials, so we do want to do as much within our power what the people would like us to do and represent them,” he said. “We will see what people’s expectations are and then we can work towards that as well. We all have an idea in our mind what we would like and we want that to fall in place wit what the community would like to see as a whole as well.”