Innisfail citizens meeting draws large crowd, pushes for greater involvement in municipal politics

After several appearances at town council, presenting questions from voters and a well-attended meeting Friday, an Innisfail citizens group is taking a step back.

Citizens for Innisfail, an 11-person strong group, held a meeting hoping to engage other residents on issues of accountability, the hiring of the next chief administrative officer and economic development.

But the biggest success, is the strengthened engagement in municipal politics.

“The hall was practically full,” said group member Mary Flemming.

“There had been so much complaining around town. It wasn’t just complaining at coffee or writing letters to the editor, we feel writing a very concise letter asking very clear questions of council and getting on the agenda is an accomplishment.”

Last November, town council was presented with 14 questions by the Citizens, not all were answered due to privacy issues.

Much of the meeting focused on moving forward in the community in a positive way.

“We’re probably just stepping back for the next little while, there really is nothing more to do,” said Flemming. “It’s an election year. We hope a lot of people will step forward to run for council. A couple of us are thinking we might do.”

Mike Nickel, an Edmonton City Councillor, was on hand to talk about his experiences with city council and the bureaucracy and how change happens slowly.

Flemming conceded one of the Citizens for Innisfail group members had spoken “negatively” at the meeting.

“That blew us away and we’re really hoping it doesn’t have a long-term impact on what we’ve been doing,” said Flemming. “We cautioned him that we expected a positive talk and he let us down.”

The group came together last year, concerned about the firing of the town’s fire chief. Since then they have asked numerous questions about the hiring process to replace retiring city CAO Helen Dietz. Dietz is set to retire in June. A headhunting company has been hired to help the town recruit the next CAO.

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