A couple of new candidates have entered the mayoral race in Okotoks recently, one of them being former Okotoks town councillor Naydene Lewis.

Lewis has lived in Okotoks with her family since 2003 and has established a presence through the community through extensive volunteer work and as the administrator for the Foothills Area VIEWS & NEWS Facebook group, which has over 6,000 members.

Her time on council spanned from 2007 to 2010, a season Lewis defines as a time of growth and development for the town.

She also describes that period as being one of little communication and participation between the town and its residents, something she'd like to foster if elected as mayor.

"After I left council I thought I'd never go back again because I found it very stifling and yet, with this current group of councillors coming forward, I thought, 'Wow, with my leadership training as an adult facilitator, with my previous time on council, with my hand on the pulse of the community and always talking about what's going on in the community through social media, this is a great time for me to come forward."

Lewis has a few goals she'd like to strive for with town council.

One is the town's association with the Calgary Metropolitan Region Board (CMRB), to which she is opposed, believing it will only stifle progress for the town and the whole Foothills region.

"It may have the potential to cause us harm, not only in our developments, but also financially, as it creates another level of bureaucracy for approvals in what we want to do for Okotoks, but it also puts us in a position where we have to voice our position against or for a community that we are miles and miles away from."

She says this has already been demonstrated when, in July, Rockyview County asked the CMRB for approval to develop in the region, and the request was subsequently rejected.

As far as the local economy, Lewis would like to see advertising for all Okotoks businesses rather than an emphasis on just those in the downtown areas, as well as more collaboration.

"If we can engage the businesses to get together and say, 'What do you have that I need?' and vice versa, and let's work together to keep it creative in Okotoks so that businesses are helping businesses whether they're downtown or not."

She'd also like to see local businesses involved in the conversation around economic development and diversification.

"If Okotoks wants to focus on developing a plan to bring more industries to Okotoks, ask the industries that are already here where the gaps are. If we don't have a certain industry here, then what kind of tax incentives can we provide for that business or industry to come here?"

The town's ongoing water troubles are another issue Lewis hopes to address.

"What can be done about it? Are the ratepayers willing to suck up the 35 million-plus dollars to just get the pipeline done? And what's that going to look like as a line item on our tax bills or utility bills? How is this going to affect our pocketbook today and into the future so that we always have enough water for growth, both residentially and economically?"

That focus on how spending will affect local taxpayers extends to Lewis' overall vision for the town.

"We have to focus on affordable living for all ages so that we can keep our families together close to home. Whether they're living in the same home or a different home, it would be nice to have that ability to have our children, our family, our grandparents, great parents, aunts, and uncles live within Okotoks if that's what they want to do because it's so affordable to do so. That's my vision for Okotoks."

More information on Naydene Lewis and other candidates for mayor and town council can be found on the town's website.


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