Thompson Mayor Colleen Smook has filed the paperwork to run for the office again in the municipal election this Oct. 26.
Elected as Thompson’s first female mayor in 2018 with about 44 per cent of ballots cast, beating Ron Matechuk by about nine percentage points, Smook says the term proved difficult, with transit interruptions, the permanent closure of the Norplex Pool and the COVID-19 pandemic but that she feels like Thompson is turning a corner.
“I just really feel excited about things that are happening,” she said. “Things are gong to happen now with our sobering centre and our downtown initiatives.”
Recent announcements by Vale about its exploratory drilling program in Thompson and the long-term deal that the company has signed to provide Tesla with nickel for the batteries that its electric vehicles run on, along with the city getting federal-provincial infrastructure grants for road construction, sewer and water main renewal and, on May 9, a new pool, are signs that there are brighter days ahead, says Smook, who was first elected to council in 2014 and finished third as a mayoral candidate in 2010.
“You’d like to see them through and see them happening because there’s still a long road ahead to get everything out,” she told the Thompson Citizen May 11. “We’ve got funding now, and a lot of that, but there’s still things to do to keep it up.”
The 51-year resident of Thompson, who owns McCreedy Campground and expedites supplies for hunting and fishing lodges in Northern Manitoba, says she’s happy that the community safety and well-being action plan was completed this term and hopes it will help make Thompson a more livable place over the next few years.
“Our downtown situation is definitely something that’s always of concern to me.,” she said.
If re-elected, economic development is something that Smook would also like to keep pressing on.
“We restarted what was Thompson Unlimited into the Thompson Community Development Corporation,” she said, reviewing some of the current council’s achievements. “We’ve worked on the housing lots out by the golf course and by the stables so that’s giving more opportunities for persons that want to live up here. My idea is to make it a better place for everybody to work and shop. It’s going to take us a while to get back to where we want.”
The current mayor is also proud of what she and the councillors have done to try to keep life as affordable as possible at a time when property values are decreasing and Vale has shrunk its workforce and its grant in lieu of property taxes.
“We’ve tried to keep the tax rates low,” she says. “We’ve had them minimal, less than the cost of living, for our four years.”
Recent changes to the committee structure are making it easier for all councillors to be on the same page, Smook believes.
“All eight council members and I are all in the room at the same time when we’re getting information that we’ve had from our different staff and then different departments. It’s just important for me as the mayor or any mayor, whoever gets in, that they keep their council informed of what’s happening.”
That said, all of council’s achievements are team efforts, in Smook’s view.
“I can’t actually make any decisions on my own.”
Whether she has done enough in the past four years to earn a second term is up to the public to decide, Smook knows.
“May the best person win when it comes to October,” she says. “I’m just thankful for the chance to run again and appreciate all the support that I’ve had.”
The window to register to run for mayor opened May 1 and continues until Sept. 20. Prospective councillors can file their paperwork starting June 30 up until Sept. 20.