Okotoks town council has determined their path forward following the resignation of Councillor Cheryl Actemichuk.

At their Monday (March 25) meeting, council was presented a report about the resignation, as well as the next steps to fill the vacancy.

While the situation would usually call for a by-election, the timing of the resignation complicates things.

Legislative Policy Services Manager Kathy Duplessis explained that they had two choices as to how to proceed.

“The resignation was received 19 months prior to the next general election which is 30 days short of the 18-month requirement not to hold a by-election. So, the two options before council are to either consider requesting the Minister of Municipal Affairs to extend the end time for filling that vacancy to the next general election, that’s permitted under section 166(b) of the Municipal Government Act as we are just 30 days short of that 18-week period… The other option is to direct administration to bring back a report with proposed by-election dates within the legislated 120 days.”

The cost of holding a by-election and training a new councillor is estimated to be $40,000.

Duplessis also noted that some circumstances that Minister McIver would likely take into consideration are the fact that Okotoks’ council is not based on a ward system and that the resignation was received just outside the 18-month window that would not have required a by-election.

She said Municipal Affairs has confirmed that Minister McIver has received several such requests and hasn’t yet responded to any, but requests under similar circumstances have historically been granted.

Councillor Rachel Swendseid made a motion to have Mayor Thorn send the letter of request.

She spoke to the motion, relaying some of the sentiments she’s been hearing from locals.

“I had originally wanted to fill the spot as I really thought Okotokians wanted a representative there, but after talking to a ton of people in person, I went out on my social media… The overwhelming response was that folks do not want a by-election because of the costs. They said we are too close to next year, they do not want that by-election, they are happy with the way council is functioning now.”

She also mentioned of a piece of correspondence she had received asking whether council could properly govern in a balanced way without a seventh member.

“I think that, again, we’ve been operating without a seventh member for a number of months now and I do feel that we’re open to the entire community’s feedback, we’re involved in many different community initiatives, so we do try to find as many corners of Okotoks.”

Councillor Gord Lang said he’s been hearing similar things when consulting with Okotokians.

“I’ll be supporting this as I did debate this with myself back and forth but, as well, I talked to a number of people in the community and they, for one, didn’t want the by-election because of the expense. They also said, ‘You’ve been operating for a year as a six-member council and everything seems to be working well,’ so I’ll be supporting this.”

The motion was passed unanimously.

Swendseid also took the opportunity to thank Councillor Actemichuk.

“Thank you to Councillor Actemichuk for her service to the community, being an elected official is no joke, it’s really rewarding but it’s really, really demanding, so we do thank you for your service to the Town of Okotoks.”

The meeting agenda can be seen on the Town of Okotoks website.