Staff morale, city communication and collaboration will be top of mind at City Hall in the next three years, as new and returning members of Penticton council were sworn in for the 2011-14 term Monday night.
In his inaugural speech as the re-elected mayor of Penticton, Dan Ashton challenged the vocal opponents of the proposed South Okanagan provincial remand centre to offer their ideas on how to kick-start the city’s economic engine.
“There were those in the community that, during the decision process regarding a correctional facility, who were not in favour, and they proposed that there are alternative options for the city to consider to make Penticton more prosperous,” Ashton said. “Well, my door and my mind are always open.”
He said he would help and support residents bring their ideas forward, recognizing the limitations of city spending.
The morale of those working at City Hall is paramount, Ashton said, following the cutbacks made during the last term.
“These changes were very tough on staff, especially those that lost their positions, and you have my word I will be doing as much as possible to address the morale issues and I ask council to do the same,” he said. “Change is difficult, especially substantial change, and to go forward for the best interest of the community, we need to work together.”
Also on the horizon, he explained, is enhanced communications with residents. Ashton said a proposed budget item will include a monthly newsletter and city activity summary that could be sent out in utility invoices. Enhanced use of social media is also part of the plan.
“Council will continue to work harder, spend smarter and govern more effectively,” he said. “We are not immune to what is happening in the world today and we need to continue to be cognizant of the current financial status of many of the citizens of Penticton, and the ongoing employment issues this city faces.
“You can be assured that this council and the staff will continue to do everything possible and as quickly as possible within our means to help people get back to work.”
The ceremony consisted of provincial court judge Gale Sinclair reading the oath of office to Ashton and members of council, and asking whether they swear to abide by the oath. In his introductory speech, Sinclair also commended the group, noting how their service to the community calls on them to make often difficult decisions and having “to look their neighbours in the eye after.”
Pastor Darwin Pichette offered the evening’s invocation, offering a prayer for council and the City of Penticton.
Outgoing councillor Mike Pearce did not attend the evening, choosing instead to provide a letter for Ashton to read out to the gallery. Pearce wrote that attending “would be too emotional” for him, and that the evening was “for new councillors anyway.”
He also offered some words of advice for the new board: “Be an individual and a team player at the same time.”
Ashton said Monday that the committee appointments would not be announced until after the structure was reviewed by the new council. He did indicate, however, that he intends to maintain three specific committees: the fiscal review board, the development services overview as well as community and business development, which will oversee the South Okanagan Events Centre and the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre.