For anyone with an inkling to run for city council this fall, Mayor Greg Granstrom will host an information workshop on May 17 and May 19 to help answer any and all questions people may have.
“I want to keep it simple,” Granstrom said. “The first goal is to have people ask questions and learn the basics. If anyone wishes to go further, I’m certainly more than willing to give them all the information they need.”
“This is not my election campaign, absolutely not,” he said. “I’m trying to give [prospective mayors and councillors] the best information so they can decide whether they want to enter the fray or not.”
“What people want to know is how much time it takes,” he said, “What is the commitment?”
He figured the basic commitment consists each month of two regular meetings, a rough average of one special meeting or committee-of-the-whole, plus attendance at one or two other committee meetings. That comes to about four hours per week, plus research and conferences on the side.
The annual stipend for a councillor is $5,500, so it’s hardly a get-rich-quick scheme, and Granstrom figures the mayor’s job entails about three times the time commitment for double the stipend.
Stipends are set by council itself. “At that rate, you get people who don’t do it for the money, they do it as a public service and as a commitment to their community,” Granstrom said.
The next most important attribute of a councillor that occurred to Granstrom was an “open mind.”
“You can see the ‘single issues’ and it bogs down the process,” he said. “What happens, when you come in with that single issue, is you find out that there’s way more involved than your issue. You’re going to find out in a hurry that you have to pay attention, there’s a lot of reading involved.”
“Everyone has to understand that we’re running a business,” he explained. “How it’s run is by a staff who are led by a group of volunteers. There’s no professional politicians here, that’s for sure.”
“If you have good people working for the city, it makes your job a lot easier,” he said, “and we do have that.”
Family support is also vital for an elected municipal official, and Granstrom strongly encouraged people to bring their partners to the information session. “Without support from home, it’s hard,” he said.
For example, he said it is possible to hold another job and be mayor at the same time. Granstrom did so in 2005 when a coin toss knocked him up from councillor to mayor for the rest of the year while he held a job as public works manager in Warfield. He said it’s possible, but a “huge strain” on the family.
A term is three years and Granstrom said he “would like to think that anyone who put their name forward would be planning on staying the full term, but things happen. If you have to go, you have to go. It happens all the time, it’s not the end of the world.”
If someone leaves council prior to the third year of the term, there has to be a by-election at a cost of about $10,000.
“We have battles here,” Granstrom said about some of the more heated moments in council, “but when we meet in the street, or we phone, we’re good. That’s an attribute. You can fight like hell in here. But when the meeting’s over and the gavel goes down, we’re all the same.”
For Granstrom, the biggest reward of the job is “making a difference in your community.” He said, “You can take a huge amount of information, and a huge amount of opinions, and you turn it into something positive for the whole community.”
“You get the odd phone call from somebody who says, Thanks a lot for looking after that, we really appreciate it,” he said. “When you get those, it’s really heartwarming.”
By contrast, the other kind of phone call comes in about half as frequently, Granstrom said, quick to crush the myth of “people phoning you at all times of night. It doesn’t happen.”
“You get way more queries and irate people phoning when you’re the manager of public works than you ever do as a councillor,” he said.
“It’s not like your phone’s ringing off the hook, and most people that phone you are people that know you,” he said.
“It’s either to offer you a suggestion, or sometimes to tell you that you’re wrong, but most people are very respectful.”
The session on May 17 (Tuesday) will run from 6 to 8 p.m. The second session on May 19 will cover the same ground, but run in the morning from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Registration is through Rossland Recreation and the $5 fee will go to KidSport, an organization that ensures all children can afford to play.