THE BLOG

Derrick Forsythe: Experience - the Right Mix for Edmonton's Diverse Ward 6

10/17/2013 06:05 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST

The easiest job in the world is to sit back and chuck bricks...

It's a line - albeit a saltier version - that I first heard as a teenager back in New Brunswick.

It was at a golf course. My friend's dad was the Club President and was talking with a friend of his at the end of a meeting in which the membership was attempting to keep the course afloat. The meeting has been a little raucous and he was discussing some peoples' dissenting comments with a close friend of his.

That's where the line came from - and it's formed my view on public service.

I believe change can't be effected while taking notes from the sidelines - it requires rolling up your sleeves and getting down to work.

It means getting involved in your community, service organization or even our political process - at any or all levels of government.

It's why I began my involvement in politics while at Acadia University; a decision that ultimately led me to Ottawa and then to Edmonton.

It's why I joined the Canadian Forces in 1988 - first as a non-commissioned member and later as an officer.

It's also why I took over as President of the Victoria Men's Golf Club in 2004 when the Club was losing 53 percent of its members a year. I re-wrote the constitution and re-aligned Club policies to make it a fun and competitive environment for everyone whether they were a 4 or a 34 handicap. Now club retention averages better than 88 percent.

It's why I joined my Community League in Queen Mary Park shortly after moving there from Oliver in 1999; and stayed involved for the next 13 years. I led the community through the then largest re-zoning exercise in recent memory - the Downtown North Edge - that will bring 7,000 new people to Queen Mary Park and Central McDougall when complete.

It's why I agreed to chair the United Way Campaign at Canadian Forces Base Edmonton for four years where we exceeded our targets every year. During that time I also sat on the Edmonton Salutes Committee; a body set up by City Council to build closer relations between CFB Edmonton and the surrounding municipalities.

CFB Edmonton is one of the top ten employers in the Capital Region and directly contributes about $500 million to the local economy annually.

I'm a founding Board Member for Valour Place; a temporary home away from home for all Canadian Forces members and veterans, Families of the Fallen and RCMP along with their families who require medical treatment in Edmonton. I proposed to Mayor Mandel the terms under which Queen Mary Park would support having the project in our community and helped move the approvals through the Community League after appropriate consultation had taken place.

I've also participated on the West LRT Expansion Advisory Committee before it was disbanded, and have been a member of the Municipal Golf Course Advisory Committee for a decade. Through these memberships and the North Edge Area Redevelopment Plan (not to mention numerous trips to City Hall to protect the vision of this plan), I have gained exceptional insight into the workings of both City Administration and City Council.

Over the past 25 years of actively serving community and country, I have learned the importance of learning, listening and leading.

I gather the relevant information from affected and interested parties, weigh relevant information, and then make the call on how to proceed.

While I was president of the Community League, we would hold an old fashioned "Yankee Town Hall" meeting where we asked residents how the league would set priorities for the coming year. From the list of items discussed and debated, we identified which projects were important, allocated resources and set the plan in motion.

I did this because the money we were spending wasn't the Community League's alone - it was to be used for the betterment of the community as a whole. It's how we decided to spend $500,000 to replace our aging playground. We allocated the funds, created a citizen-led committee and supported the effort through to completion of the construction phase.

That same commitment to citizen involvement in the decision-making process is the cornerstone of why I'm running for office. I intend to put in place a consultation model with communities, social agencies, and business associations across the Ward in my first 100 days in office.

Meaningful consultation at the front end of a process is far more likely to result in a solution that is acceptable to both the proponent and the community. It also has the benefit of not painting communities as obstructionist when they simply stand up for their beliefs; after all it's the people living in the community that have to live with whatever decision Council makes.

I'm committed to bringing such a model to our planning process here in Edmonton. I have the experience, leadership and ability to foster consensus to do this job.

But I need your help. On October 21 I need your vote so that together we can build stronger communities across Ward 6; strong communities make a strong city.