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Get To Know Your Ward 1 Candidates

Fort McMurray, AB, Canada / MIX 103.7

13 candidates are vying for one of six council seats that makes up the largest ward by population in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.

There will be at least be three new faces around the horseshoe come October 16, as councillors Tyran Ault, Colleen Tatum, and Sheldon Germain announced they won’t be seeking re-election.

Current councillors returning to the ballot are Phil Meagher, who’s seeking his 8th term, Keith McGrath, and Lance Bussieres.

In an effort to help you learn more about your Ward 1 candidates, we sent them a short questionnaire focusing on their ideas and ways to better not only their Ward but the entire region.

The same five questions were sent to all candidates. Answers we received prior to the deadline are posted verbatim and in alphabetical order by last name.

Mike Allen

Tell us a bit about yourself?

Ward 1 Candidate Mike Allen is no stranger to both politics and business in Fort McMurray. Having moved to Fort McMurray back in 1993, he immediately integrated himself into the business community while purchasing Campbell’s Music, which fostered his love for jazz music. He has successfully run Campbell’s Music in the downtown core of Fort McMurray since that time, a business that has been a staple in this community for over 40 years. He began transitioning from business to community leader when he was nominated to a position on the board of Fort McMurray Chamber of Commerce where he served two terms as president beginning in 2004. Throughout his role as former Councilor for two terms commencing in 2007, as well as in his capacity as former MLA for Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo, Allen has demonstrated his desire to see Fort McMurray thrive time and time again. He had a large role in ensuring the safety of residents while travelling down Highway 63 by advocating for the twinning of the former one-lane highway as Minister of Transportation. Throughout the past several years, Allen has donated his time to local non-profit organizations such as the Centre of Hope and the Fort McMurray SPCA.

Why do you feel you’re the best person to represent your Ward?

I was urged by friends and residents to run in the current election due to his devotion to this region and with the hope that his experience being a former Councilor and provincial MLA could be instrumental in promoting Fort McMurray’s interests moving forward. This coming 4-year term is expected to be a challenging time, both in continuing the rebuild of our community and the economic recovery – it will be important to have some experience at the table. I believe I possess some of the skill-sets to help turn our challenges into successes.

What are your top three priorities?

  • Lower Townsite Redevelopment
  • Prepare for transition in taxation resulting from Bill 8/21
  • New municipal Capital and Operating budgets with a focus on core Municipal services and maintenance to existing Municipal Infrastructure

What makes the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo special to you?

Fort McMurray has been my home for 24 years and I am proud to have raised my children here. The opportunities in this region continue to be amazing and every day presents a new exciting

challenge. Whether as a political leader, businessman or citizen, I will continue working towards making Fort McMurray a better place because when all is said and done, I intend to retire right here in Fort McMurray.

What is your favorite book/movie/song?

I enjoy spending my spare time as quality time with my fiancé Denise, either relaxing and watching a movie or going for long walks with our dog. We particularly enjoy comedies like Big Bang Theory or action/sci-fi movies like Star Wars & Star Trek. When I’m alone, it then gives me the opportunity to lose myself in my other true passion – playing music.

Krista Balsom 

Tell us a bit about yourself? 

kristabalsom-2

Born and raised on Random Island, Newfoundland, I moved to Fort McMurray in 2001 and attended Westwood Community High School and Keyano College before heading to the University of Ottawa to study political science and then public relations at Algonquin College. I returned to Fort McMurray in 2009 after stints working on Parliament Hill as a legislative assistant, to work and put down further roots in Fort McMurray.

My past experience includes working for the RMWB, MacDonald Island Park, and for the provincial legislature Living in Fort McMurray –Canada’s economic engine– has provided incredible opportunities and allowed me to work and play with some incredibly talented people. I am the president and owner of Balsom Communications Inc., which is the publisher of Your McMurray Magazine, now celebrating its fifth year in business.

I live in the Fort McMurray neighbourhood of Prairie Creek with my husband Jason Cumby, and I have two stepchildren, Madison and Jayden. I am a passionate and active volunteer within our community, and currently sitting as the 2017 Campaign Vice-Chair of the United Way of Fort McMurray, where I have sat on the Board for four years. I currently serve on several boards, and can frequently be found out and about in the community.

A huge advocate for recreation and engagement in our community, she worked on staff with the 2015 Western Canada Summer Games and sits on the board for the 2018 Alberta Winter Games Wood Buffalo. I also believe I am a champion of the arts and actively participate in the local theatre community as a volunteer actress with the Keyano Theatre and Arts Centre.

Why do you feel you’re the best person to represent your Ward? 

A love of Fort McMurray and its people is what has convinced me to run for office in the upcoming 2017 municipal election, along with my passion and commitment to making Fort McMurray stronger for all residents. My past experience, combined with my dedication will give me the energy I need to fight hard to give our region the best opportunities.

What are your top three priorities? 

  • Downtown revitalization and economic development
  • Stronger collaborative relationships with all levels of government, industry and stakeholders
  • Fiscal responsibility while ensuring a vibrant, inclusive community

What makes the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo special to you?

To me, it’s the people that make the RMWB special. The people of our region are hard-working, driven, passionate, kind and generous. Without the people, we wouldn’t have a community that continually demonstrates it’s ability to help one another, innovate and never give up in the face of adversity.

What is your favorite book/movie/song? 

Book – Harry Potter Series
Movie – Love Actually and Shawshank Redemption
Song – Against the Wind, Bob Seger

Adem Campbell

Tell us a bit about yourself?adem-campbell

My name is Adem Campbell and I was born and raised In Miramichi NB, and moved to Fort McMurray in 2013 to pursue my teaching career. I have a strong background in sport and student government, having played university baseball & basketball, and served on multiple student government positions such as student council president among many others. Aside from teaching the past 4 years in Fort McMurray, I have worked 4 seasons as a head coach for the Fort McMurray Oil Giants, and have just come off a Provincial Championship with our Peewee AAA’s. I continue to spend a tremendous amount of time volunteering as a coach at the scholastic level through volleyball, basketball, and baseball. I am an active member of our local United Church of Canada and serve as Vice-President of our local basketball referee’s association. For any Francophone voters I am fluent in French.

Why do you feel you’re the best person to represent your Ward?

I firmly believe that someone who serves their community in politics must do so through a sense of duty and commitment to others. I’ve modelled this as an educator and have learned that my greatest impact as a teacher has not been my work in the classroom, but through the connections made outside the class through volunteering and serving. I am someone who places their entire being into whatever I’ve committed to, whether as a teacher, coach, or referee, and as councillor my commitment to the people of Fort McMurray will be no different. As an educator, coach, and referee, you must develop the ability to listen, and as a councillor, I will be readily available to listen to the concerns and struggles of our constituents. A strength I bring through my experience is the ability to create community, whether in the classroom or on the field. All voices must matter and I will bring that same philosophy to council in order to strengthen our city’s sense of community, and unite our council as a cohesive unit. Having had a family who served their communities in both municipal and provincial politics, as well through non-profit organizations, serving is in my blood. My desire to serve comes from my heart and wanting to make a positive impact in our community and make our constituents proud. Having lost literally everything as an uninsured victim of the wildfire of 2016, I could not have gotten back on my feet without the tremendous support of our beautiful community. The roof over my head a donated RV from my church, my yard, a free living space provided by RMWB, and my clothing, given to me by members of our community. I owe it to our constituents, our families, and our youth to serve, as an attempt to repay the kindest and generosity afforded to me in my most difficult hour.

What are your top three priorities?

  • Programming and facilities for local youth, families, and seniors, in order to retain people in our community.
  • Working with industry to achieve sustainable growth for both our municipality and the energy sector.
  • Rebuilding post 2016 wildfire

What makes the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo special to you?

First and foremost it has been the people of this community that have been most special; whether it be the children and families I’ve met through coaching and teaching, or the people I encounter on daily basis. At the end of the day it is not the buildings or infrastructure that makes a community home, it is the people. Fort McMurray has afforded me an absolute dream job, through teaching and coaching, unlike anywhere else in this entire country. This community continues to bless me with opportunity and I can only hope to gain the trust of our constituents in an attempt to return the countless favours I’ve received, as your councillor.

What is your favorite book/movie/song?

Book: Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman
Movie: Lone Survivor or Field of Dreams
Song: Garth Brooks – The Dance

Arianna Johnson 

Tell us a bit about yourself?

arianna-johnsonA leader in the social profit sector and community advocate, Arianna Johnson has served as the Executive Director of the Wood Buffalo Food Bank since April 2011. In addition to her professional role, Arianna currently volunteers as Co-Chair on the Social Recovery Taskforce and has voluntarily served as Chair and current Past-Chair of the Food Banks Alberta Board of Directors, a Director on the Pastew Place Detox Centre Board, a Committee Co-Chair for the 2015 Western Canada Summer Games, an executive member of the Wood Buffalo Housing and Development Corporation, and in several roles for the Big Brothers, Big Sisters Association of Wood Buffalo Board of Directors, including President. No matter which role she has held, she has been responsible for the development of innovative new programs and stewarded her organizations through one of the most challenging events in the history of the region when a wildfire devastated the community in May, 2016. During times of both turbulence and calm, Arianna provides strong community leadership through all the roles in which she serves.

Residing in Fort McMurray since April 2006, Arianna is also the proud recipient of many awards and honours, including the 2016 Top 50 under 50 by Your McMurray Magazine, 2012 Woman of Inspiration, and 2013 Top 40 under 40 by the Fort McMurray Connect, Sustainable Community Recognition Award by the Fort McMurray Chamber of Commerce, and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal.

Arianna has worked in the social profit sector since 1997, serving in several capacities both within and outside the Wood Buffalo region. In 2012 she completed the Nonprofit Management Certificate through Keyano College/Mount Royal University, having completed her degree in Psychology and Political Science at University of British Columbia Okanagan in 2003.

Through her work with the Food Bank, her other roles in the social profit sector and her volunteer roles, Arianna has developed a keen eye for fiscal responsibility and an interest in securing the future for those she represents. She is deeply committed to Fort McMurray and the Wood Buffalo region, and serves her community with passion, dedication and strength.

Why do you feel you’re the best person to represent your Ward?

My life has not been without hurdles, I have not always chosen the easy path but I have always fought tooth and nail to get where I was going. I have been blessed with the fortune of being surrounded by amazing people who have been my guide in life. But most of all I have been blessed with the intrinsic desire to serve my community. This desire to serve with my extensive board, social profit, and business experience lends itself well to the positions of city councillor. All of my experiences have made me someone who can listen and work with people to come to solutions that are in the best interest of the people I serve. I love this city and all it has given me and want to spend the next four years representing it, serving it, and working to better it.

What are your top three priorities?

  • Engagement: we need to stop letting government drive engagement and start letting engagement drive government.
  • Core Services: we need to return to our primary purpose roads, sewer & water, emergency services, and infrastructure.
  • Poverty Reduction: I would like to see our region lead the way to a society that uses simple solutions to better the lives of all our people especially those in the most need or who are the most vulnerable.

What makes the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo special to you?

When I moved here 11 years ago, by myself this community embraced me, and gave me the opportunity to grow and develop. It provided me with a safe place to explore my ideas and take the risks necessary to make amazing things happen. It is where I found my place in this world and where I found Home.

What is your favorite book/movie/song?

Book: Memoires of a Geisha
Movie: Legends of the fall
Song: sorry this changes a lot and is a hard one to answer
Country: Two Black Cadillac’s
Top 40’s: Issues
Rock: In-a-gddta-Da-vida
Alterative: Good Die Young

Keith McGrath 

Tell us a bit about yourself? McGrath

Fort McMurray and the Wood Buffalo region is my home. I’ve been fortunate enough to have lived here for over 30 years while raising my family and seeing our community evolve and change while remaining true to our roots. I’ve been blessed to have served the community with 17 years of public service prior to this year’s election, including the last four years on Council in addition to service as Vice Chair of the Fort McMurray Catholic School District Board of Trustees and on the Board of Directors at the Regional Recreation Corporation of Wood Buffalo at MacDonald Island and on the Friends of Miskanaw Golf Club.

More importantly, I’m someone that believes in the strength of family and community purpose and in building a region that cares for our seniors and sets the stage for our youth, industry, local business and our workers to thrive.

Why do you feel you’re the best person to represent your Ward? 

Our community has faced some serious headwinds over the last few years and we need strong representation on Council to advocate for what is right for our residents and stakeholders.

One of the things I’ve learned on Council is you need a balance of perspectives sitting around the horseshoe with people of different backgrounds. In many ways, while I’ve served on Council and various boards and committees, I have worked in industry, business and construction, and understand the real priorities of industry and our workers – because I’ve walked in those shoes every day for the last three decades.

During challenging times, we need representation on Council that will stand up for our community and be willing to sit at the table to get it right. We also need Councillors that will stay at that table when the conversation gets difficult. Those that know me understand that I am once again that candidate in the 2017 election.

What are your top three priorities? 

  • Strong municipal management. Given our economic circumstances, our Municipality needs to continue to be smart with our decision making, hiring local businesses and contractors every time we can while focusing on core service delivery and a continued emphasis on a successful rebuild and recovery following the wildfire. At the same time, we need to take the next step in our conversation with industry on the fly-in, fly-out workforce to find ways the people and families that call this place home can benefit from it. We may not stop fly-in, fly-out, but we can pursue ways to minimize it while continuing to make Wood Buffalo an attractive place to live.
  • Advocacy for our seniors and working with the provincial government. It was this Council that worked with the new provincial government to move the continuing care centre from Parsons Creek to Willow Square – and we need to continue to work with the Province to ensure it takes a strong lead role in our region in areas of traditional provincial responsibility. In recent years our Municipality has stepped up in these areas because we have had the ability to do so. With a “new normal” in the local economy we will need to advocate the Province do more to support a region that delivers tremendous benefit for Alberta and the entire country.
  • Better relationships. This Council started with a comprehensive audit that identified areas in which the Municipality could be doing better, and we ended the era of fly-in, fly-out executives and consultants at municipal hall. It ended by delivering over 200 public information and engagement sessions, including over 60 sessions as part of the ‘Here for You’ campaign related to our shared recovery. If re-elected, I will champion an increased focus on our relationships with residents and stakeholders, including our Indigenous community as we implement the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

What makes the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo special to you? 

You’ll probably get a similar answer from most candidates, but it’s the people that make this region special – they are truly our most treasured resource – from Fort Chipewyan to Fort McMurray to Conklin. If you’re someone that believes in working hard and supporting your community there’s a place for you in our region. This is an important as ever as we go from hometown to boomtown and back again.

What is your favorite book/movie/song? 

There are too many books and movies that I like to pick a favourite. Since it was released, my favourite song has been “Lights Of My Hometown” by our own Aaron Lines. Everyone is familiar with that feeling of coming over Beacon Hill after a trip away or seeing the Northern lights at just the right time – and that song has become my favourite. It evokes the true spirit of Fort McMurray and is a tune that our community can call its own.

J. Paul McLeod

Tell us a bit about yourself?

J. Paul Mcleod running for Ward 1 council seat in October's municipal election. // Jaryn Vecchio - Harvard Broadcasting I am an entrepreneur, social advocate for local business and community services. I advocate for accountability in Government.

Why do you feel you’re the best person to represent your Ward?

I feel I can bring a “Boots on the ground real grass roots” approach to Municipal decisions.

What are your top three priorities? 

  • A voice that represents the people of Fort McMurray area wide.
  • Transparent and open Municipal government with community engagement.
  • Economic development for local small business, Downtown revitalization, and support for the Transportation sector with a Dangerous Goods second route to Oilsands Industry.

What makes the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo special to you? 

I came for the economic opportunity, I have now come to enjoy the friends, the community, and the natural beauty of this River front & surrounding natural diversity of the RMWB.

What is your favorite book/movie/song? 

Moving forward on this council the book that comes to mind is “ How to swim with the sharks and not get eaten alive”.

Phil Meagher

Tell us a bit about yourself?phil-meagher

My name is Phil, I am a farm boy from New Brunswick. I came to Fort McMurray in 1983 with a Teaching degree, a backpack and $250 dollars in my pocket! I started my education career at Peter Pond Jr. High School. I have been a teacher, vice principal, principal and deputy superintendent. I have been a municipal councillor for the last 22 and a half years, I was first elected to council on April 3, 1995. My day job now is Chief Deputy Superintendent of Fort McMurray Public Schools. I have a wonderful wife, Sherri(we met here in Fort McMurray), five children and two grand children. I am a Snow Angel in the Winter, shovelling several driveways for seniors who are not able to do their own. I cross country ski, a lot, and love Winters! I coach the Fort McMurray Ptarmigan Nordic ski team. I am Cross Country Co-Chair for the Alberta Winter Games coming up in February 2018. I referee hockey; was an on ice official for the Oil Barons for 25 years. I love to bike in the summer, I used to run, however, a hip replacement ended my 35 year running career, a career that got me inducted, as an athlete, into the Wood Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame in 2009. I am very much an outdoor person and my dog, Uno and I spend as much time out there as we can. I attend Northlife Fellowship Baptist Church and manage the church sign on Franklin Ave. I was recognized by Keyano College as Distinguished Citizen of the year in 2011 and was fortunate enough to receive the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012.

Why do you feel you’re the best person to represent your Ward?

I’d like to think I have a little bit of experience and the passion to lead Wood Buffalo through the opportunities that lie ahead. I understand where we have come from and have learned many lessons from the past. I feel I could also be a mentor for the new councillors coming in.

What are your top three priorities? 

  • Recovery and moving forward, securing our future!
  • Making sure the concerns of all citizens are addressed, from infant to senior.
  • Bill 21 and Bill 8, ten year plan.

What makes the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo special to you?

This is my home, I met my wife here, we raised our family here, I work here, play here and love the challenges of the north. Opportunities abound and I feel I have been blessed by this community in so many ways.

What is your favorite book/movie/song?

Book- Oh The Places You’ll Go, by Dr. Seuss.
Movie- It’s A Wonderful Life.
Song – Four Strong Winds, by Ian and Sylvia.

Verna Murphy

Tell us a bit about yourself?

verna-murphyMy family and I moved here 11 years ago, and we have lived in Dickinsfield for 10.5 of those years. I have been married to Tim, who works at Syncrude for 22 years, and we have three children, 20-year old Mitchell, 18-year old Nathanial, and 8-year old Shayleen. I am a freelance writer, and I was a full time reporter for the Fort McMurray Today and The Connect over the years. I have had a column in newspapers both here and on the East Coast every week for over 15 years, except during campaigns. I did run in the by election in 2015, but this is my first ever general election, and I am excited about the experience that is ahead of me.

Why do you feel you’re the best person to represent your Ward?

I have been writing about our region for over 11 years now, as I started even before we moved here. Over the years I have focused in and studied all levels of government, with particular focus on our local municipal mayor, council and administration. I have only missed watching or attending one council meeting in the last five years, and only missed occasional ones in the last 10 years. I have a very strong grasp of how our council runs, and how administration runs as well. In my work, and in my volunteer time on local boards and with a variety of community groups I have gotten to meet so many residents, and I have always been a good listener. I feel that in the last number of years, people in our region feel that they are not being heard, and I feel that I am now in a position where I can use all the knowledge that I have gained about our region and it’s residents and represent them well at the council table.

What are your top three priorities?

It is hard to pick just three, as our region will see many challenges in the next four years. But three that need immediate support are:

  • Economic development and diversity while supporting already established businesses.
  • Supporting our local social profit groups who will in turn continue to support our residents.
  • Continued focus on the rebuild to bring our families home as soon as possible.

What makes the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo special to you?

Definitely the people. In everything that I have ever gotten involved with over the years, whether it was palliative care, being a foster parent, or now running for council, I did it because I felt a need from people. I believe we can make our region stronger, and better, and that the people living here deserve both. We have one of the most giving communities in the region, and I want to find ways to keep serving the region and the people.

What is your favorite book/movie/song?

My favorite book is No Great Mischief by Allistair MacLeod. My two favorite movies couldn’t be any more different, because I love Gone with the Wind and Wayne’s World (it still makes me have a great belly laugh). And my favorite song is Me and the Boys, by Matt Minglewood, and East Coast legend. And he will be here in October!

Jeff Peddle

Tell us a bit about yourself?jeff-peddle

I was born and raised in Labrador City, NL before moving with my family to Conception Bay South, NL. My professional career started back in 1997. I arrived in Fort McMurray in the fall of 2012 – I took one look at this community and I knew that this would be where I would spend the rest of my working life, and hopefully find the love of my life. Thankfully the latter of the two has been successful. It is my honor to be married to my best friend and business partner, Maxine. I have just resigned from my profession to concentrate on my commitment to council, as well to ensure that our business at Chez Max succeeds as successful as possible.

Why do you feel you’re the best person to represent your Ward?

I am grounded and in touch with the common person up to the politicians. I have met with thousands of people and have a great understanding of the municipality. My wife and myself own a restaurant, catering company & a property management company (treat your rental like a business). We love the municipality and have meet the most incredible friends and business owners who want to represent us on council.

What are your top three priorities? 

  • Development of downtown core
  • Stop or reduce fly in fly out – work with the industry
  • Public Safety (foot patrols from the RCMP) and Bill 21

What makes the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo special to you?

The people, the size of the municipality that makes it warm and friendly. The multi-culture aspect of the community as well as learning about different cultures. The recreational facilities as well as the financial opportunities.

What is your favorite book/movie/song? 

Favourite book: Rich Dad/Poor Dad – Teaches you to think different and abundance
Favourite movie: Avatar (3D)
Favourite Song: Redemption by Bob Marley – None but ourselves can free our mind

Ali Syed

Tell us a bit about yourself?
ali-syed
I have lived in Fort McMurray for almost ten years now and my wife and I are proud to call this wonderful place home. We have three awesome kids that grew up (in various stages) and have all been schooled here locally. I have worked for FMPSD for all ten years now and love my job. I’m very active in creating learning opportunities for kids in Wood Buffalo by starting the Annual FMPSD Robotics tournament and Tech-Trade Academies. Both have been tremendously received and are free for all students to enjoy. I served on the FMPL (now WBRL) Board of Directors for three years and was also proud to be a Board of Director under three different chairs for Some Other Solutions. I have been an active member of the Fort McMurray Tarsands Lions Club for some time and believe in community service.

Why do you feel you’re the best person to represent your Ward?

I don’t. I think I’m one of a few candidates that can help RMWB steer a path back to balanced budgets, forward-thinking and visioning based on what the PUBLIC says and reducing waste and expenses as needed. I firmly believe in being honest and transparent in office. This election is about what vision you want RMWB to have. One crafted by you or one crafted for you. There’s a huge difference in the two and I hope voters let me represent them.

What are your top three priorities?

  • Support the continued rebuild for those people who are trying to get back to normal. My heart goes out to them all and this is a priority for me personally.
  • Revisiting Bill 21 and its implications for us in RMWB. I am not a fan of taxes – the lower the better. I promise to advocate for the end of crazy wasteful expenses and get back to lowering taxes and supporting industry and business.
  • Revitalizing the business community by honestly listening and supporting their ideas for the downtown core. No more half billion-dollar arena ideas or fly in fly out consultants. The people of RMWB will guide the ideas.

What makes the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo special to you?

I came to this place with ideas, dreams and passion. I found an amazing town full of energy and vigor. When I first came here, I had two jobs. I worked all the time and kept myself busy to get a down payment together for a place for my family. My family came two years later and it was the best decision my wife and I made. Our kids have had amazing experiences and opportunities here that solidified to me how special this region is. I enjoy fishing, kayaking and taking out the canoe when possible so for me this has been an amazing life.

What is your favorite book/movie/song?

Favourite Movie – Goodfellas
Song – It Had to Be You (Harry Connick Jr) I tried to sing it to my wife when I asked her to marry me. Fortunately, she still said yes.
Book – The Magic of Believing (Claude Bristol)

A full list of candidates running in Ward 1 and the rest of the Wards can be found here.

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