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Jasper needs a full-time mayor

Richard Ireland has been the mayor of Jasper since 2001, when Jasper became a municipality. N. Veerman photo

Richard Ireland has been the mayor of Jasper since 2001, when Jasper became an official municipality. N. Veerman photo

From attending meetings to reading reports and lobbying higher levels of government, there’s a lot to do if you’re the mayor of Jasper.

No one knows this better than Richard Ireland, who has been the town’s mayor since 2001, when Jasper officially became a municipality.

That was 15 years ago and a lot has changed, especially the workload.

Today the municipality employs 69 full-time and 16 part-time staff to take care of everything from garbage and recycling to the town’s roads, sewers and facilities.

On top of this visitation numbers over the past 10 years have also been steadily increasing with more than two million people visiting Jasper every year.

To keep up with the growing demand, property taxes have increased in lockstep, rising by more than 20 per cent since 2012.

As a result the mayor as well as council have begun commissioning various studies to get a better understanding of the challenges the community faces.

While some of these studies are just getting underway, such as the town’s transportation study, other reports have already come back and reaffirmed what the town already knew–our infrastructure is aging and we don’t have the revenue tools to adequately pay for it.

The issue is further exacerbated by the town’s inability to control land use and development and the province’s formula for infrastructure spending, which is based on a town’s resident population.

With such critical issues on the horizon it’s a lot to ask of a part-time mayor, who makes about $40,000 a year, plus about $5,000 in honorariums for attending meetings.

In 2013, council approved increasing the mayor’s wage by $675 per month, after a panel noted that the mayor’s job is about 65 per cent of a full-time position.

For comparison, Banff’s mayor receives an annual salary of $77,000 and his position is considered full-time.

With a municipal election slated for Oct. 16, now’s as good a time as any to consider making the mayor a full-time position.

For starters, if we want Jasper to have a strong and consistent voice at both the provincial and federal level we need a mayor who can devote his or her full attention to Jasper’s needs.

On top of this if we want the best candidate for the job it shouldn’t come down to whether someone can afford it or not.

By making the mayor a full-time position, it levels the playing field for all residents regardless of their socio-economic status and ensures we have the best person for the job.

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