Mayor preps to be judge

Leaving office to take a new job has been “bittersweet,” says Stettler lawyer Jim Hunter, who resigned from his post as the town’s mayor on Tuesday.

Leaving office to take a new job has been “bittersweet,” says Stettler lawyer Jim Hunter, who resigned from his post as the town’s mayor on Tuesday.

Hunter is closing his law office and leaving politics to become a provincial court judge, effective Aug. 24.

The town has set Oct. 19 as the date of a byelection to find a new mayor.

Hunter said on Wednesday that he had applied for his new position without knowing if or when he would be accepted.

Although he feels badly about having to resign as mayor, becoming a judge offers an exciting opportunity that he cannot refuse.

“Opportunity sometimes only knocks once. It’s a change in my career path and it’s a challenge and it’s something I look forward to.”

Hunter served on town council for three consecutive terms (nine years) before being elected mayor during municipal elections in October, 2004.

“I truly enjoyed sitting on council. There weren’t many moments I didn’t enjoy. I worked with some absolutely wonderful people. I learned so much. I met so many people,” said Hunter.

“I did it because I truly felt, or hoped, that I was giving something back to the town.”

Among the town’s recent accomplishments is the completion of annexation negotiations with the County of Stettler.

The town’s intentions came as somewhat of a shock at first, because it was asking for a fairly large tract of land to accommodate development.

“At the end of the day, it was just business for both of us. You try to keep personalities out of business. From a personal perspective, I have a good relationship with the reeve (Earl Marshall) and I consider him a friend, and a good friend,” said Hunter.

While there were some tough decisions to be made, an amicable agreement has been reached with just a few details to be ironed out before it goes to the Municipal Government Board.

“I’m hopeful, for the town and the county’s sake, that it goes smoothly through Municipal Government and a conclusion is reached.”

Hunter said Stettler has flourished in recent years, in part through its council’s commitment to creating a regional hub for education, health care and recreation.

The town’s successes on those fronts continue to bear fruit, shown in its ability to attract such major retailers Wal-Mart and Peavey Mart. UFA has recently expanded its presence in Stettler with the addition of a retail store and Canadian Tire is also building a new store.

Along with expanded retail, Stettler has become a destination point for tourists through Alberta Prairie Rail Excursions, and can now boast a new Boston Pizza as well as a Ramada Hotel, said Hunter.

New recreational facilities have also been pursued during Hunter’s time on council, including construction of a twin set of arenas and a new swimming pool and leisure centre.

A new municipal building to be shared with the school board is almost ready for occupation and the town is now in the midst of building a new sports park, with plans to have the playing fields ready for action next year.

Hunter said he hasn’t heard much about his new position, other than that he will be based in Red Deer.

Born and raised in Calgary, he articled in Red Deer and then moved to Stettler, where his wife, Annette, was teaching school.

He formed a partnership with fellow lawyer Gary Grant and later set up his own law office.

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