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A Disturbing Trend in Local Government

The resignations of over a dozen mayors and councillors in British Columbia over the past two years is “a disturbing trend,” according to a veteran of municipal politics.

Source: CBC – “A Disturbing Trend”

“Long hours, low pay and increased complexity cited” as the main reasons. In the decade that I’ve worked for local government, I can attest to seeing a steeper learning curve, long meetings (they’ve always been long), masses of documentation to read for each meeting, an increasingly social media-driven public, and some big issues that will take decades to overcome such as asset management, long-term financial planning and managing an infrastructure deficit that are real challenges for even experienced engineers and planners to work through, let alone mayor and council who are serving the community part-time on a stipend.

I’m not going to offer thoughts on solutions today, but I am going to affirm that I’ve seen real stories related to this disturbing trend, and the complexity of issues is not likely to ease. New or increasing challenges for local government are evident; such as aging populations, immigration, health care, managing growth (or contraction for some communities), energy costs, affordable housing, resource sector jobs, managing tax rates, and aging infrastructure. Providing leadership on this growing list of problems to solve on behalf of their communities, and building partnerships with agencies that are tasked with providing these services is a big task for councillors on top of the general administrative tasks of council that they face every week.

Overall, community leadership by elected officials is more technical than ever before and requires diligence and attention to detail for success. Communities, current councils, local government staff and the provincial government must work together to find solutions to stem the departure of elected officials and make serving on local government councils a positive leadership experience.

Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of UrbanWorkbench.com and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada.

If I post something here that you find helpful as you navigate the world of engineering, planning and building communities, that’s wonderful. But when push comes to shove: This is my personal blog. The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer.