KELOWNA – For first-time councillors, the duties of running a city can be overwhelming.
They will have to make decisions on topics ranging from budgets and development permits to land use and public forums. Most of these are mysterious to the average citizen.
So to prepare new councillors, city staff arrange a series of orientation seminars hosted by a private consultant in the weeks leading up to the start of the new term. The goal is to take average citizens and turn them into civic leaders.
Mayor-elect Colin Basran says the information is priceless and not just to first-term councillors.
“It’s just as valuable this time as it was three years ago,” he says. “Even though a lot of the information is the same, having now sat on council it’s easier to come up with ideas how to do it better the second time."
The first of three planned meetings took place Thursday at City Hall. Councillors were given a six hour crash course on what makes for an efficient and effective municipal government.
Newly elected first term councillor Ryan Donn says although he had a good idea what to expect before he filed his papers, the amount of time and organization that goes into running a city was still surprising.
“Really what they go over is all that is required of a councillor,” he says. “It’s about how to run an efficient governance model and making sure councillors know how to do the job.”
The first meeting was run by George Cuff, an ex-mayor turned private consultant.
"He has a great perspective in terms of council, staff and how the two should be interactive," Basran says. "He's used by municipalities right across the country because he's the best in the business."
A chapter in his book, “Cuff’s Guide for Municipal Leaders”, is titled “So, Now You’ve Been Elected” and details the primary responsibilities of civic leaders.
“Welcome to the very interesting, challenging and rewarding life of an elected official in local government,” the chapter begins. “This experience will be unlike anything else in which you have been involved, in terms of its variety, complexity and role change.
“Regardless of how successful you have been in your own business or career, this experience offers few parallels. In many instances, you will be frustrated by the glacial speed of decision making, and wonder why everyone cannot move as quickly as you can – or perhaps thought you could. Perhaps you will argue that the municipality should be run as a business, only to recognize somewhat later that its basis as an institution representing the public requires that it approach decisions from a very different perspective.”
Donn says despite the abundance of information given during the first meeting, at no time did he feel unprepared or overwhelmed.
“I seemed to be asking the most questions,” he says. “Maybe that means I have the most to learn… but I love to work. I might not have known all the details but we all knew what we were getting into when we signed up.”
All nine members of Kelowna city council attended as did Mayor-elect Colin Basran. Two more meetings hosted by city staff are scheduled for the middle of next week.
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