Colleen Smook says she decided to seek a second term as Thompson’s mayor because much of what she hoped to accomplish in the past four years got pushed aside by unforeseen events or delayed by the biggest curve ball of all, the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I decided I wanted to run to make sure that we do see that Thompson gets to a better place over the next four years,” she told the Thompson Citizen prior to today’s election, which continues until polls close at 8 p.m. “I didn’t see another candidate for mayor that had the same visions that I did for the town.”
Although there are issues that have worsened in Thompson since she became mayor in 2018, Smook says she believes there is a brighter future ahead because solutions to problems such as deteriorating infrastructure and downtown issues have started and will continue into the next term.
“I do believe four years ago, we had hit rock bottom and everything, but there was nowhere to go. We didn’t have plans. We have put those plans in place over the last three years.”
Among the projects which had their groundwork laid this term are five-year water and sewer and road renewal programs funded mostly by the federal and provincial governments, as well as funding commitments for a new aquatic centre to replace the Norplex Pool, which Smook admits she was far too optimistic about after she and council made the decision to permanently close the Norplex in February 2019.
“I thought the pool could be up and running or up and going before it was,” she says. However, a fair chunk of the necessary funding is now in place and Smook believes that further fundraising efforts will reduce the burden that building it will place on city taxpayers, many of whom, she says, just want it to happen, even though they know it will be a big budget item.
“Everybody wants a pool,” she says. “They don’t care, really, what it costs, but I think with the right partners at the table, it’s not going to be a big issue. It’s not going to be a big burden on the taxpayer dollars.”
Once the election is over, the process of building it should resume moving forward.
“When the new council comes in, it will be ready to go to tender,” Smook says.
Getting infrastructure funding for Thompson or operational funding for pilot projects is a function of building relationships, and Smook believes she did a good job of that as mayor.
“I feel I’ve done a pretty good job of working with people on different things,” she said, even if it seems like that hasn’t always applied to her relationships with some of her councillors.
“I really thought I would be able to make council work, we would work together,” she says.
After a decent start, however, unexpected circumstances throw a real monkey wrench into those plans.
“Ou first year wasn’t too bad but once that second year started out with the pandemic it just went to hell in a handbasket and we’ve never gone back.”
Unlike some of the other candidates in this election, Smook believes that changing council’s committee structure from one based on standing committees with a few councillors each to one where all councillors are part of the committee of the whole is better for producing results.
“It’s allowed all eight councillors and the mayor to get the same information at the same time,” she said. “I find that we come to agreement a lot quicker. With that being said, it hasn’t been in place that long and I do believe there is room for improvement.”
One place she would like to see a committee, even one without any council involvement, is on the subject of the water utility and billing issues that many have complained about.
“I’d like to see a committee set up to look at our water utility and just see right from beginning to end what’s wrong or if there’s anything wrong with our water bills,” Smook said.
Whether she remains in the mayor’s chair or not come Oct. 27, Smook says many things will remain the same.
“If I don’t get elected, I am not leaving town and stepping away,” she said. “I was always involved doing stuff around the city.”