Becky Grimsrud is one of 12 candidates vying for six seats on Fort St. John city council, and one of six new faces looking to upset an incumbent councillor.
Grimsrud is a helicopter pilot by trade, flying in corporate and government officials and workers, which helps keep her finger on the pulse of the town. Grimsrud wants to see the city tighten its bidding process and rein in project overruns, figure out why so many businesses are building outside city limits, and spend more on the city's non-profit sector and arts and culture.
Alaska Highway News has sent out a questionnaire to all candidates in this year's election, asking them about their experience and priorities, what they think the city should be spending more or less money on, the city's greatest achievements and failures over the last four years, and the biggest challenge in the next four.
Responses are being published as they are received. The answers below have been edited for spelling and grammar only.
Name: Becky Grimsrud
Neighbourhood: Robert Ogilvie
Occupation: I’m a helicopter pilot, and am also a member of a number of local non-profit boards.
1. Why did you decide to run for council?
I’ve always loved following politics and being involved in my community. I decided to run in order to be more involved as well as being able to more easily share ideas with the rest of council and bring other perspectives to the table.
2. What experience and skills would you bring to council?
The most important life skill I have learned along the way is the ability to do more with less. With a critical eye to expenses, I believe we can stretch our money further and do more with what we have. I also have non-profit board experience and relevant skills like attention to detail, critical thinking, and leadership qualities, plus actual resource-based working experience in the area. As a helicopter pilot, I often fly corporate VIPs, workers, government officials, and a wide variety of other people. This makes it easy to have my finger on the pulse of what is going on within our community. Having a new perspective on council will only serve to strengthen the decisions made by having more debate and discussion.
3. What would be your top three priorities if elected, and why?
My top three priorities would be to take a critical look at policies which could lend themselves to cost overruns, concentrate on fixing and improving basic roads and services, and improving consultation and public awareness of city matters.
Over the last year alone, we have watched at least two major contracts be awarded to companies who bid low and then asked for substantial budget increases. We need to take a hard look at our bidding process and also what is really going to benefit our community. Whether or not the Peace River Agreement money directly comes out of our pockets as taxpayers, it is still money that could improve things that would have a significant positive impact on our community.
My second priority is to improve basic roads and services. This is the number one thing that affects all residents and visitors in our community. There are things which need addressing to ensure all roads are up to a certain standard before looking at new projects. I’d also like to look closer at our emergency services.
With regards to consultation, let me just say that is is apparent how much time and effort has been spent by the city trying to get citizens more involved. However, the majority of the people I speak with still don’t understand how they can have any say on matters, or even how any of the civic processes work. If elected, I’d want to spend some more time “translating” the long documents and processes into shorthand and everyday terms so that more people can grasp the key concepts without having to spend the hours reading the official documents or searching for information. I think it is important for elected officials to be accessible to their constituents and to help them understand what is going on instead of just sending out a link with a lengthy document to read.
I have many other ideas, but these are my top three priorities. Fiscal responsibility, basic roads and services, and improving communication.
4. What programs or services should the city spend more on?
I’d like to see more support for our non-profit sector, arts and culture, roads, and aging infrastructure. These are the basics that hold our community together, and we need to concentrate on getting them up to a certain standard before getting too far into expensive new projects.
5. What programs or services should the city spend less on?
We need to spend less on cost overruns. If we could tighten up our bidding process and cut down spending on unnecessary expenses, it would leave a bit more flexibility with the budget.
6. Would you support raising taxes to support council priorities?
No. We are very fortunate in that we have a large budget and can afford a lot of fantastic things within our community. There is no need to raise taxes unless there are significant changes with what we receive from the Peace River Agreement or other major income sources.
7. What should the city do to attract new industry and business?
Businesses need to see the facts and figures that their investment in our community is going to be safe in order to invest. We need to show them statistics proving our city a viable option from an investment standpoint.
8. What should the city do to stimulate downtown investment?
First, let’s look at why so many businesses are building outside of city limits, and see what we can do to encourage them to operate in town instead. Are we charging too much for business taxes, or is it the obstacles with building permits and zoning that are discouraging business in town? Let’s consult with local businesses to better understand the obstacles and find community-based solutions. I’d also love to see more municipal incentives to revitalizing storefronts and building appearance. We give utility credits to residents who plant trees in their yards, so let’s do something similar with businesses.
9. What's has been the city's greatest achievement over the last four years?
Receiving the ranking of Number 1 best city to live in B.C. Also, city staff consistently do a great job of keeping our community operations running smoothly and responding to feedback from the residents.
10. What's has been the city's greatest failure over the last four years?
I have my opinions on this, but hindsight is always 20/20. Let’s just say that I would use issues in the past as learning experiences and work to ensure they are rectified in the future.
11. What's the biggest opportunity facing the city over the next four years?
With the recent final investment decision on LNG Canada, we are going to have a rapid increase in residents and workers in our city. This gives us many opportunities, as well as challenges.
Opportunities include the ability to build and develop more lasting programs, services, and infrastructure while we have additional dollars rolling in. We need to spend this money wisely, and think about the future of our city. We could potentially be in a very good place in four years, if we make smart decisions on how to spend the money that comes in and put it into projects and infrastructure which will benefit us for many years down the road.
12. What's the toughest challenge facing the city over the next four years?
Also with the approval of LNG Canada come a lot of challenges. We will see a spike in housing costs, leading to more demand for social assistance from non-profits such as the Women’s Resource Society and Salvation Army. Seniors will also be affected, and should have additional budget allocated to ensure those who have contributed to our community for so many years are not left out of our industry boom.
Finish this sentence: When I'm not deep in thought about city politics and civic issues, I'm…
… working, reading, spending time with my family, or out adventuring somewhere outdoors.
What's the last book you read?
The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women by Valerie Young… soon to be followed by Prosperity – Making Smart, Strategic Decisions about Money by Brad Brain
What's the last movie you watched?
A Wrinkle in Time with my kids.
The best thing about Fort St. John that people don’t know about is…
How amazing this community is when someone needs a helping hand. I’m proud to say I’m from Fort St. John when we band together and help those affected by a natural disaster or health emergency. It is truly incredible to see and makes me so happy!
If you weren't living in Fort St. John, where would you be?
I can’t think of where else I’d want to live, but would love to travel to new countries and have amazing adventures. Mostly, I look for vacation spots where I can (attempt to) surf, hike, or explore.
Want to know more about Becky Grimsrud Fowler? She can be reached by phone at 250-262-1900, or by email at email@example.com.
Connect with Grimsrud on Facebook at facebook.com/beckygrimsrudFSJ.
Email Managing Editor Matt Preprost at firstname.lastname@example.org.