by Phil Ambroziak

Gary Vidal isn’t ready to walk away just yet.

The Meadow Lake mayor recently announced his plans to seek re-election when voters head to the polls Oct. 26. If successful, it will mark the beginning of Vidal’s second full term as mayor, a job he initially stepped into following a 2011 by-election.

“During the last few weeks, I took the opportunity to speak with a number of different people in different circles – not just my own – in an effort to gather feedback and to get their impressions on what we’ve done as a council and if we’ve been doing things right,” Vidal explained. “I received a lot of positive feedback, and I also believe there will still be enough support around the council table to ensure we’re able to continue down the path we’ve started on.”

In recent weeks, the mayor was uncertain what his future political plans would be, stating he was waiting to see who else would come forward and express an interest in being on council. The nomination period officially opens today (Sept. 1) and, as of press time, only councillors Curtis Paylor and Conrad Read have also stated their plans to return. Deputy-mayor Annette Klassen, as well as councillors Merlin Seymour and Kim Chiverton remain undecided while councillor Layne Shkopich stated he will not be returning.

“We’ll probably have some new people, and that’s OK,” Vidal continued. “It’s up to the people at the end of the day, and it’s up to the people as to whether or not they want to bring me back as well.”

Vidal went on to note some of the accomplishments council has made since the start of the current term in 2012.

“In the last few years we’ve got to a place where we now have some fairly significant operating surpluses, we’ve been able to invest about $15 million in capital projects and we’ve brought our overall debt down by about $2 million,” he added. “By the end of 2016, the only outstanding loan we’ll have is the money we borrowed for the 9th Avenue lift station, and there’s a plan in place to address that.”

Vidal said the city also has about $1 million in reserves, mostly money put away for the future long-term care facility. He added, the city has accomplished many positive things internally and, although the public may not always be privy to the goings-on behind closed doors, this will benefit the entire community.

“We’ve improved relationships with our employee union, as well as other partners, and now that our house is in order so to speak we can put a greater focus on long-term planning,” he stated. “We’ve spent significant time and money on the things beneath the streets, now, if we stay on target, we can get more things done such as significant paving projects. We couldn’t fix what’s on top until we fixed what was on the bottom, and this is something the public doesn’t necessarily realize. We’re now in a place where we can be more proactive, and I want to be part of what happens from here.”

During the last election in 2012, Vidal was returned to office by acclamation. This time, however, he hopes that doesn’t happen.

“Honestly, I’d rather someone else put his or her name forward because I am a firm believer in democracy,” Vidal said. “If more than one candidate comes forward, it gives people a choice and the people deserve a choice.”