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Sears has vision for city for the next generation

By Josh Aldrich, Camrose Canadian

Camrose Coun. Bill Sears

Camrose Coun. Bill Sears

Councillor Bill Sears wants to know what your vision is for Camrose for the future. 

The first term city councillor is currently one of two challengers for Mayor Norm Mayer as he seeks re-election. The other candidate is Wayne Massick.

His vision for the next two decades will take into account all things from developing policy to streamlining the operation of the city, to keeping an eye towards how the city will need to respond to evolving technology and environmental concerns. For Sears, it is all about keeping the city moving forward and adapting to new realities. 

“I think we have to look into the future and see what cities of the future are going to look like,” said Sears. “Change is not only happening, but change is happening faster. That’s inevitable.” 

One of the more foundational applications of his platform is the development of policy that will limit council’s need for involvement in the operation of the city. Instead council would be more focused on the strategic direction of the city. This was highlighted by the debate over the West Grandview Drive road closure earlier this year. The city found itself debating at length, over the course of years, what to do about the increase in traffic from the east side of Camrose through the residential areas on the West side en route to new business developments. Eventually the City determined voted to pay up to $40,000 for a permanent road block. Sears says this process could have been simplified had there been a traffic calming policy in place, which they are currently working on. 

“It’s a tricky situation when council starts dealing with individual streets and individual requests because they can keep coming and sometimes you can open a flood gate and sometimes council is put in a position where they have to say no where they’ve already said yes to other people,” he said. “People don’t always like to hear that, but it has to be what’s fair to everyone in the city ... The city is growing and so you have to develop policies that work best for everyone and then let those policies work.” 

Sears moved to Camrose in 2012 to retire with his wife Trudy. He liked the small town feel with all of the big city amenities, something which is starting to draw young families back to the community. That growth has also been helped by the fact Camrose was partly sheltered from the economic downturn by not being wholly dependent on the oil industry. It has made the city an attractive destination for young families and entrepreneurs, especially women business leaders. 

Now the trick is to get a more of them to run for council. 

“If we could just get some more of those young women on council to bring their views to council I think it would help shape the future of the city,” said Sears. 

It is one of the reasons he was in favour of the full nine per cent raise per year over the next four years four councillors, to help them close the wage gap with other comparable municipalities, noting it seems like the only ones who have time to run for civic office are seniors or the semi-retired. 

“I do think that if you compensated people better, it would give people a little bit better incentive to take time away from their businesses, to take time away from their families to run,” he said. “You’ll never pay enough to completely compensate them, but I think it has to be fair.” 

Though Sears is new to Camrose, he has many years of experience in office, serving with Beaver County and on the Battle River School Board while farming near Tofield. 

This experience has him believing a stronger partnership needs to be formed with Camrose County. While the province is mandating written agreements to be formed between neighbouring municipalities, he says he has a unique insight to both sides of the table. 

“It gives me a little different understanding of counties,” he said. “We still have to look after best interests of the city and I think the best interests of both can be served with cooperation.” 

The election is slated for Oct. 16. 

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