Red Deer is at a crossroads as it celebrates its 100th year as a city.
Where we go from here, after 100 years of remarkable progress, depends largely on the quality of our leadership.
The foundation for the first 100 years of this city was established by a dedicated, progressive group of civic-minded people, led by Francis W. Galbraith.
Red Deer has always been a proud community, for good reason.
It is a great place to raise a family, and a superior place to live and do business.
And it has always had people like Galbraith, who wanted more for the community and wanted it for the right reasons: to enrich the lives of those who live here now and those who will live here in the future.
Over the ensuing years since March 25, 1913, Red Deer’s various city councils mostly got it right, keeping in mind Galbraith’s “peace, welfare and prosperity” mantra as they guided this city’s growth.
There have been missteps, and controversies.
Hindsight can show us, clearly, that a dysfunctional council leaves lasting scars.
And a council more concerned with counting today’s dollars than ensuring long-term quality of life can be equally damaging to progress.
No random gathering of voters (and those who pretend to vote, but are just complainers or sheep) will offer you unanimity on the best course for this city over the next four years, let alone the next century.
But that’s part of the healthy process of community building.
We’re not looking for a cookie cutter city. We want a city with character, vitality, imagination, diversity and ambition. And we want a city that works toward peace, welfare and prosperity for every citizen, always.
That means we will have disagreements.
It means we have groups like Red Deer First stepping forward with confidence that they have a better way (you don’t have to agree with them to see the value they bring to the public discourse about community building).
It means we have a fluid, informed debate about the value of a ward system for city council, and a plebiscite that similarly informs and guides the next council.
It means that when we have concerns about crime rates; when we have issues with the relative livability of our city; when we face a suicide crisis among our teenage population; when we debate the merits of fluoride in our water, we do it all in a way that brings resolution and greater public good.
But how do we go about gaining and maintaining that kind of balance?
Certainly, the Red Deerians of today can’t chart the course for the city for the next 100 years.
But we can play our part in the moment, just as Galbraith did a century ago.
We can embrace two key notions: Red Deer is a tremendous community, with immeasurable potential; and no community, ours included, runs itself — progress requires commitment, planning and daring.
And if you aren’t willing to play a role in the conversation about our future, either as a player or a supporter, then you have already cast a vote for disaster.
If we want another century of peace, welfare and prosperity, we need all hands on deck — as volunteers, supporters and voters.
Anything less could well condemn Red Deer to a future that is far less remarkable than our first 100 years.
John Stewart is the Advocate’s managing editor.