May 27, 2015


A young(er) council

The new face of city council is the youngest it's been in modern memory, not necessarily in terms of the age of the office holders, but certainly with regard to years of service and political experience.

Four councillors are rookies, while another four are just beginning their second terms, including John Orlikow, who was first elected in a byelection last year following the death of Coun. Brenda Leipsic.



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Council's senior stick today is Harvey Smith, who has served continuously since 1998, but who also served from 1980 to 1986, for a total of 18 years. Coun. Dan Vandal has served a total of 13 years, followed by Jenny Gerbasi (12 years), Gord Steeves (10), Mike Pagtakhan (8) and Russ Wyatt (8) and Justin Swandel, with five years under their belts.

It's a stark contrast from the past when there were several councillors with 20, 25 or even 30 years of experience. Many of these veterans had a greater command -- or believed they did -- of the complex machinery of civic government than the civil servants, a fact that could sometimes create an unhealthy dynamic.

The mayor and city councillors are elected to provide oversight and broad policy objectives, as well as to serve as the link between citizens and local government. It is not their job to micromanage daily operations, negotiate land deals, or interfere in assessment appeals.

There will always be a grey area between appropriate and inappropriate interference in the work of full-time civic managers who are responsible for the smooth operations of literally hundreds of civic services, but the public is served best with a balance of fresh faces and old hands.

The natural tension between new perspectives and experienced judgment hopefully will serve the citizens well.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 29, 2010 A14


Updated on Friday, October 29, 2010 at 8:15 AM CDT: Coun. Wyatt has served eight years and Coun. Swandel has served five.

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