Brian Coleman, the former head of a local seniors housing organization, has announced his candidacy for Westlock County’s Div. 4.
Coleman grew up on a family farm near Sexsmith but has lived in Westlock County for 13 years, currently residing in Westview Estates.
“What I bring is a significant amount of creating and managing budgets, financial analysis and making sure that every dollar spent is spent appropriately…and not cutting corners,” he said.
If elected, Coleman’s No. 1 priority will be implementing the 27 recommendations outlined in Municipal Affairs’ inspection report.
“If those are implemented, the rest will fall into place,” he said. “I think the people that did the report did a very good job, they were very honest. (The inspectors) thought they were brutal in some areas; my view is that the report was truthful and reflected fairly poorly on the existing council.”
The biggest reason for the county’s failure, he observed, was council and administration not following the Municipal Government Act.
The legislation is familiar to Coleman, who spent nine years as CAO of Westlock and District Housing Projects and another nine months as interim CAO of the Westlock Foundation.
Coleman headed the seniors housing organization during its amalgamation with Westlock and District Housing, and also during merger discussions with Sturgeon Foundation. As a result, he has gained significant management experience working with municipal government and policies.
Prior to working at Westlock and District Housing Projects, he worked for 34 years at Telus — six of which were spent on the capital budget committee and 20 years in management, where he eventually retired as a business development officer.
“I have eight years of experience creating long-term strategic plans, which this county does not,” he noted. “Those are the key skills that I think I bring to the table.”
If voted in, what he’s most looking forward to is coming up with a long-term plan for the county so that taxpayers get the top value. That includes a developing a long-term plan for infrastructure and roads in order to get the longest life out of their assets, he said.
“Without a long-term plan, we spend money willy-nilly and don’t really accomplish very much,” he added.
Other priorities include a creating a strong vision and strategic direction for Westlock County by consulting with residents and administration, and finding opportunities to reduce operating costs by working with other municipal governments, including the Town of Westlock.
The Horizon North industrial lot was one project he said was extremely poorly managed.
“The fact that $300,000 plus was spent without approval should never happen,” he said.
As for the Tawatinaw ski hill, Coleman said the county should keep it and hire an operator, but that offer should be put out to tender. He is also looking forward to the results of the plebiscite and hearing what the taxpayers want.
“My concern with the ski hill is the fact that $3.8 million is basically invested, if you include the previous land value, and there was no operating plan when the capital was committed,” he said. “If you’re going to spend that kind of capital, you have to have an operating plan.”