Opinion: Reflections from outgoing Revelstoke councillor Connie Brothers

'The only thing that makes one place more attractive to me than another is the quantity of heart I find in it.' — Jane Welsh Carlyle, Scottish Poet

Connie Brothers served as Revelstoke City Councillor from 2014-2018. Photo: Connie Brothers Facebook profile

By Connie Brothers, Revelstoke City Councillor 2014–2018

In coming to the end of our council term, I have spent some time reflecting on these past four years; the quote above is what comes to mind first and foremost when I do.

I am truly humbled by and grateful for the opportunity Revelstoke residents have given me. Being a councillor has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my work life. Every day on the job I learned something new; not just how the city functions, but it was an opportunity to gain a better understanding and insight into our remarkable community and for my own personal growth. There is no doubt that this job teaches you far more than you will ever teach it.

The work of providing for a community is challenging and much greater than any one person or group. As a councillor you are only a small part of it and you hope that by your contributions you make a difference. You need to work with staff to represent and provide for the whole community and address the various needs, as the city has many moving parts. As a result, most decisions and solutions are complex, and require balancing these needs. You must leave your biases and preconceived notions aside when making a decision and focus on one agenda: what is in the best interests of the community as a whole. This sometimes takes a measure of courage, as the decisions you make may disappoint or anger some in the community. There are usually no easy answers, and often it keeps you up at night.

City council is probably the best example of democracy in action and the most visible. Councils come and go, but the city needs to continue to function smoothly and the democratic process must endure. Council members hopefully come from all walks of life and are representative of the whole community; they receive information from staff to help in decision making; they debate the merits of issues in public, and by way of a majority vote, the will of council prevails and must be respected. Unlike the provincial and federal governments, the decisions made have an immediate and usually noticeable effect on the community. Coming from a legal background, I found this process a beautiful thing.

For me, the biggest challenge of this council was dealing with issues arising from growth; I believe that it will be one of our greatest challenges going forward. We need to have a clear understanding of how we wish to grow, and plan for it. If we do not manage and control our growth, growth will control us, and it may not be as we want. As well, we are a tax paying community of 7,500 people, but in season have a population who use our infrastructure, of double that and more. We only have our taxes and whatever grants we are lucky enough to secure, and so our city financial and human resources are often stretched thin, and it takes hard work and a lot of juggling to make things work. As a resident, city taxes are always a sore point, however, when you think of what some pay for personal phone and internet services alone, it is surprising and impressive the services the city provides for the taxes paid: sewers, water, roads, recreational facilities, snow removal, fire and police services and much more.

The city has accomplished a lot in the last four years. There have been many difficult but successful projects, including the Big Eddy waterworks, Thomas Brook’s annexation of 23 properties, the current and proposed roundabouts, the air charter service, to name a few. We have revamped our budget system  to make it more understandable and transparent; we reduced our city debt by $5,000,000 and increased our reserves by $3,000,000. We have received $17,000,000 in grants and are scheduled to receive over $5,000,000 for the coming year. We receive these grants because city staff are very adept at writing the applications and Revelstoke is known to use the money effectively. We have completed or are completing over $23,000,000 in infrastructure projects, much of it funded by the grants.

I want to take this opportunity to thank the mayor and my fellow councillors as well as City staff for their hard work and caring for the job over the past four years; as well, for their collegiality and respect for one another, even through the tough times (and there were a few!).

I appreciate and thank all those who have stepped forward to run for mayor and council. It is a labour of love of this community, and so worthwhile. I hope the community will be patient with and respectful of our new council as I have learned from experience that it is not always an easy job, and council and staff work very hard to do the best they can. Remember to take the time to celebrate all of the many wonderful things about our city.