The Carillon - ONLINE EDITION
By: Grant Burr
Posted: 07/12/2018 8:45 AM
Steinbach city council is guaranteed to look a lot different after October’s election, but Susan Penner laid out her case this week for why she can continue to make an impact around the table.
"I think I’ve been effective in the last two terms," Penner said. "I feel I’ve been able to have a strong voice."
Penner’s colleagues John Fehr and Earl Funk have both decided to pursue the mayor’s chair, while Mayor Chris Goertzen and Councillor Cari Penner won’t run again.
While she has just as much experience on council as Fehr and Funk, Penner said she’s comfortable in her current role, though she did give the idea of running for mayor thought.
"I’ve been effective as a city councillor. It’s been a good fit for me," she said.
She declined to say which of the current mayoral candidates might match her positions best.
Penner, during her time on council, has earned a reputation for keeping a close watch on the city’s finances. Expect more of the same, she says, if voters endorse her for a third term. Keeping taxes and debt low will remain key themes.
"I’ve had feedback from people that support me and even ones who don’t…they appreciate that I’m clear on what I stand for," she said.
"You don’t always need to agree, but there’s appreciation that I’m clear on where I stand."
So, as a new term nears, Penner finds herself staking out positions on familiar topics, like recreation and cultural facilities in the city.
"We’re actually a small city. If we’re talking about things for the region then we need to have regional discussions," she said, highlighting the city’s small tax base.
Still, she knows that with $1 million in property taxes being set aside each year for recreation and culture, there is opportunity to address those needs. It is just a matter of vision, she says.
"I believe, 100 percent, that if our vision was more realistic, we would have gotten more accomplished," she said, reflecting on council’s last four years.
"It’s been either these massive projects or nothing. I certainly hope there is going to be a little more realism in some of this decision making so that we can move ahead."
Smaller projects, like the installation of the splash park next to the Jake Epp Library, BMX track at A.D. Penner Park and the Bush Farm trail, are what she has in mind.
"I’m very big on projects that impact day to day life," she says, turning to an idea she pitched at a recent council meeting.
"Giving the arts council some money to renovate their facility or get them in a new day to day facility, is something that is within our scope."
While Penner keeps a focus on small projects with big impact, she said she would still support larger projects if "stars align" to bring in funding from other sources.
Playing off of her arts council suggestion, she mulled a similar option for larger recreation projects too.
"The other option, I sometimes think about is, if there’s a private group that’s interested we say, "Here, we’ll give you a grant. Make it happen. And the ball’s in their court.’"
While Penner acknowledges the city has a role to play in this type of develop, she’s encouraging a "rethink" of what parts of that process are within the city’s expertise.
Other infrastructure remains on her mind as well. While she says the city has benefited from paving projects on Park Road East and Old Tom Road, Penner would like to see Park Road West paved also, to its intersection with Industrial Road.
As she looks to a new council come fall, Penner is confident that her experience can bring much to the table.
"Steinbach will have a new mayor and at least three new councillors. My experience would certainly be a benefit and provide stability as the new mayor and councillors adjust to their new roles."
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