Mayor Marshall Chalmers announced on April 20 that he will not be seeking re-election for the upcoming municipal election.
“It was time for me to think through whether I wanted to seek the community support again for this chair, nothing should ever be taken for granted,” Chalmers said.
“It takes a tremendous amount of your personal time, and of course that has to be supplemented with the full support of immediate family because it affects everyone in some fashion because your time is so committed to the community,” he said.
By stepping back from the chair, Chalmers will be able to evaluate other areas of his life and take opportunities.
“It really came down to it’s the right time in my life to step back. I have been so honoured and humbled to serve this community, I went in with both feet, I’ve given it everything I can to try and make Chestermere the best place to live,” Chalmers said.
“It was the right time for the family and I. I’m really proud of from where we were to where we are now, I can leave with a real sense of accomplishment, and everyone knows that we had a whole list of things when we started that we wanted to achieve, we can look back and we ticked a lot of those boxes in regards to what this community wanted,” he said.
Going forward, Chalmers will continue to work to ensure Chestermere is amazing by working on community initiatives until his last day.
“The one that’s very top of mind is we’ll be advancing is the recreation field house. We’re moving forward to build a new field house as part of the new recreation facility, that in itself takes a lot of our time, we will be working long and hard on to make sure it’s moving forward, and we’re getting it right,” Chalmers said.
Chalmers and council will continue on the transit initiative, all things senior, solutions to the webster lands on the city’s debt load, stormwater management, and working with developers by updating policies, Municipal Development Plans (MDP), and Area Structure Plans (ASP).
“Chestermere has a lot of development that ultimately all rests on the shoulders of council at the end of the day,” Chalmers said.
Adding, “There’s a lot of work, and a lot of time spent to make sure that any changes we do make, are aligned and is really what the community wants.”
The city is now in the middle of a complete service level review and doing a deep dive into every aspect of service delivery to the community.
“Council will ultimately be able to decide if that’s what we want to continue to deliver, and if so at what level, because it all speaks to taxes. This had to happen, a lot of times communities start delivering services without taking a hard look at the level of service,” Chalmers said.
Chestermere is one of 10 communities mandated to the Calgary Metropolitan Regional Board (CMRB) and is invested in developing a growth and services development plan.
“Municipalities are mandated to come together and figure out how we are going to grow together and how we’re going to service those lands in the growth area. It’s been a real challenge, trying to find enough hours in the day to address all the issues municipal and the additional workload that’s gone to the growth and servicing plan,” Chalmers said.
When Chalmers first ran for mayor, he saw the anger the community had that was driven by continuous increases in municipal taxes and utility bills.
“That was causing a lot of pressure on citizens as the economy was heading in the other direction, people were losing their jobs, and yet those things were increasing,” Chalmers said.
“The community was looking for a new direction, they demanded the taxes be looked at and reduced, they demanded the utility company and utility service in their words be fixed. They trusted us to focus on that,” he said.
After council was elected, they hired Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Bernie Morton to manage the concerns addressed by the community.
Morton and his team brought council the opportunity to reduce municipal taxes four years in a row.
Morton also took city hall and completed a review and revamp in how the organization was structured to deliver services.
“That was a major accomplishment, it speaks to the reduction of taxes,” Chalmers said.
“Of course, a substantial amount of work, time and effort was put into fixing the utility company. We took an established utility company that was a stand-alone company, when we took over it had debt in the neighbourhood of 32 million and it was heading to around 56 million,” Chalmers said.
Council, with the assistance from Morton and his team were able to dismantle how the utility company was operating, released board members, and assumed the role of chair and board members.
“When I ran for Mayor, it wasn’t necessarily our intention that we were going to assume the role of the board at a utility company. We’re extremely pleased with where we are now, and the challenge we were faced going in, as we not only decreased utility cost, but we increased our service level,” Chalmers said.
“It’s all about customer service, it’s always been about customer service for this council and mayor, but that came with a lot of heavy lifting to get it where it is today,” he said.
Following his announcement to not seek re-election, Chalmers received an overwhelming amount of feedback from residents.
“I was very appreciative of the response and the kind words I’ve received for stepping up in the mayors’ chair at a time when the community was at a crossroads with challenges, taking those challenges on, you don’t think about how the community appreciates that effort, and it’s come through,” Chalmers said.
“I appreciate it, my whole life has been about public service, you don’t do it for the money, you do it for the betterment of the community. It’s the right time for me to step back and look at what my future holds,” he said.
Without the hard work and dedication council and administration showcased, the changes made throughout the last four years wouldn’t have been possible.
“My council colleagues came in the same as I, new to the chair, and faced these challenges head-on, everybody was in full agreement as to what the challenges were because the community was speaking loud and clear. We buckled down and got at it, I’m so appreciative of the council colleagues, the workload, and the efforts they put in,” Chalmers said.
Council spent countless hours working to ensure they were prepared to take on any debates on the issues that were in front of them to make the best decisions that impacted the community.
“There was so much heavy lifting. This council was committed to managing change, the community demanded change, and we have in my opinion, set the base. The city is now sailing into calmer waters, we set a base to move forward, the next council can really truly look to the future and not necessarily have to do the heavy lifting we did,” Chalmers said.
“We buckled down and we got this ship sailing in the right direction. The next council’s challenge will be looking to the future in the best interest of citizens, and not looking in the rear-view mirror, and that quite frankly, is the fun part,” he said.
Adding, “I can step back from this chair knowing I gave it everything I had, working for the citizens, trying to be open, transparent, and accessible. In my mind, we’re full steam ahead.”