By Trevor Busch
Communication and growth for the village are key goals in the campaign platform of Sam Fowler who is seeking election in the Village of Barnwell by-election.
“We’ve lived in – my wife and I, my family – we’ve lived in Barnwell for, I think, coming on just about five years now. So we’ve seen some of the actions that the village council have done. And to me, I think it’s important to have input into what the village does. Because otherwise, in some cases they’ll make decisions without you and you don’t really have a lot of input or say as far as how things go.”
Fowler is concerned about decisions that seem to be made without consultation or input from local citizens.
“So for me, it’s an opportunity to speak for the people because that’s another thing that I find is important is sometimes towns or villages, as far as the decisions that are made from the councillors, they kind of proceed without consultation of the people. And to me, I think it’s very important that the councillors are aware of your role, to serve the needs of the people. I intend to be a representative of the people and not a decision maker for myself. So that’s important to me.”
Fowler wants more lots available for development.
“I’ve also talked to some people within the village who feel that growth of the village is very important to them. And I see that need as well, because I don’t think there’s currently any – there might be a lot or two – but there’s no available lots for sale that you can build on. So some people are feeling landlocked, or house-locked, I guess, in a sense. So I feel like if I can help to mitigate that, then I’ll try to support them and aim to help the village grow.”
With a background in the medical field, Fowler values research and evidence and wants to bring this approach to the council table.
“I think I’ve gone through most rungs of the educational ladder. I did my undergraduate at the U of L and a Bachelor of Science. And then I went off to Australia and did a doctorate in physiotherapy. And I’ve since come back. So I think I’m well versed in the importance of research, research and evidence as far as decision making. And I don’t think that applies just to my degree as a physiotherapist, I think that applies to decision making in the village, you look at what are other similar small towns (doing), and not necessarily just here in southern Alberta. What are other localities doing and making efforts to grow? Or how do they overcome barriers to growth? Because I know that that could be the case as well for Barnwell that it might not be as easy as just thinking let’s just grow, let’s just buy more land and build more property. Sometimes the infrastructure won’t support it. So I think that, in this case, to my knowledge that’s part of the barrier. So my hope would be to use my educational background to hopefully scour the available resources to find solutions to problems.”
Fowler admits to a learning curve if he’s successful in securing the support of voters, and reiterated an emphasis on growth.
“I think the growth is a barrier that they’re facing. Which is definitely a big one. Because if you’re not growing, you’re stagnant, which is not good for any village, city, town, whatever it might be. Beyond that, I personally am not aware of any immediate or pressing issues. I’ve never been a councillor before. So to me, my level of knowledge will have to grow if I’m the successful candidate. Obviously, I have lots to learn and lots to figure out but I think for me, probably growth would be the primary thing.”
Growth requires the infrastructure to sustain it, argues Fowler.
“With the knowledge I have, I think infrastructure is probably a key aspect to focus on. My mainstay is growth, and that’s limiting the potential for growth. I think that I would be a big proponent of it. Beyond that, I think it would be communication between residents, the council and the residents.”
On the recreation front, villages like Barnwell need to be careful how to spend the limited dollars at their disposal.
“I know other small towns like Coaldale, they have a spray park. And I know that pools are great, but pools are also very expensive. And I think spray parks are far easier to mediate. Usually you don’t need a lifeguard or anything along those lines. And I’ve talked to some residents who have indicated that a spray park would be great and I agree, Barnwell has a very large young population. There’s lots of kids in Barnwell. So I think to me, a spray park would be great.”
That being said, Fowler would support other recreational endeavours like another playground, possibly a pump track, and more local trails.
“Something that they can utilize a lot of those activities on would help because there’s really nothing aside from your sidewalks.”
Communication between the municipality and residents needs improvement, says Fowler.
“I’ve heard from other residents as well that they haven’t been happy with the way that that the town has dealt with some of the bylaws. So I think again, communication and deliverance of some of that communication – as far as how it’s delivered – has been lacking in the past from what I’ve heard.”
The Barnwell by-election is on Sept. 25.