City weighs in on full-time idea

A full-time mayor would further economic development in Terrace, says the Terrace and District Chamber of Commerce, but a poll of city councillor opinions shows not all are in favour.

A full-time mayor would further economic development in Terrace, says the Terrace and District Chamber of Commerce, but a poll of city councillor opinions shows not all are in favour.

Mayor Dave Pernarowski and councillor Brian Downie leaned in favour of having a full-time mayor, while councillors Lynne Christiansen,  Bruce Martindale and Brad Pollard remained cautious about the idea. Councillor Bruce Bidgood remained  tight lipped about his stance. Carol Leclerc could not be reached for comment.

Each person surveyed noted pros and cons and most said further research and talk in council were necessary.

Currently, Pernarowski was elected as a part-time mayor, and had a salary of $27,670 last year. He said he works 20 to 35 hours a week for the city, and he also works roughly 30 hours per week at Provincial Networking Group, a job flexible enough to enable his position as mayor.

He said that a mayor’s role in economic development is to participate in committee discussion, represent council at community and business related events and be available to those who come into city hall.

“I think the chamber sees the benefit of having someone really focused on the job, he said. “I try to do that anyways.”

If the position did change to full time, Pernarowski said he’d have more time to promote Terrace outside the region.

“Issues affecting community, housing, social impact of having an increased population… could be better addressed by having someone in that position full time,” he said.

But Pollard said spending money on a full-time mayor wouldn’t bring more to the community.

“I think the mayor does all that needs to be done. Our economic development arm could probably do that job better than the mayor could do,” he said. “It’s just an extra cost without an extra benefit.”

Christiansen too is cautious, and noted the role of mayor should not be confused.

“He’s really the chair and is there to facilitate proper discussion with his council and then bring discussions forward,” she said. “To encourage tourism, bridge partnerships, enhance relationships… these are already being done by mayor and council and staff and various other committees.”

Downie agreed that mayor and council operate as a team, albeit mostly on a volunteer basis.

“Councillors and the mayor put in the time that’s required,” he said. “Full-time, part-time is a bit of a misnomer.”

He said the job will be done regardless, but if additional work is on the horizon due to economic activity, he sees the pay increase as fair.

“In the past…our economy has been stagnant and we’ve generally felt that a full-time mayor is not affordable. But now, we should consider that,” Downie said.

But Martindale said that the raised expectation that comes with a full-time position might not be reasonable given limited resources like time and money.

“It might also cause a loading of responsibilities, watering down and weakening the position,” he said. “For example, I am opposed to having a full-time mayor fulfil the role of economic development officer as I believe the role is best performed by professionals managed by a diverse and focused board of directors.”

Downie suggested increasing the public role of councillors in the community.

“Share the load and get more bang for your buck,” he said.

On the other hand, councillor Bidgood said a full-time mayor who represents all of council would create a strong level of confidence in those relationships.

“A full-time mayor would provide an opportunity for local leadership to be more involved in an array of public relations,” he said.

But he cautioned that as a tool to further economic development, there isn’t yet evidence to support the connection.

Council could appoint one member to serve as an economic development liaison, with this being their only primary responsibility, he said. Or, it could ask Northern Development Initiative Trust to play a larger role in Terrace’s future.

One thing the councillors did all agree upon is that a full-time position would attract a different kind of person.

It would be someone who had the time to take on a full-time role, something not everyone with an existing career may be able or willing to do.

An online survey created by the local Chamber of Commerce is currently circulating to gather public opinion on the matter.

“We know it’s been talked about in Terrace, but it hasn’t gotten out to the public to have some kind of discussion around it,” said Carol Fielding, executive director of the chamber.

Upcoming economic activity and development sparked the idea.

“The chamber would like to see whatever is good for the city of Terrace,” she said. “If the community thinks it’s a good idea, we’ll do some more research.”

Fielding said when information is gathered, a recommendation will be brought to council. The chamber hopes to do so before this fall’s municipal election.