Chestermere one-man council says goodbye after by-election

Doug Lagore will be replaced by the city’s new elected officials after they are sworn in on July 3.

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As Chestermere welcomed its new mayor and councilors after Monday’s byelection, it also said goodbye to the man who has held the position of city decision-making authority since four of its former elected officials were fired last year , and oversaw those embattled politicians before that. .

“What I witnessed in this building was horrific,” Official Administrator Doug Lagore said in an emotional speech Tuesday morning in the council chambers, just hours after the city’s byelection results.

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“It has come to an end and this community will now move forward.”

The typically stoic man, with nearly half a century of experience in municipal government, was close to tears as he recalled the 21 months he spent in Chestermere, a period highlighted by council dysfunction that led to the mayor and three councilors being ousted. . the last December.

“From the moment I started sitting in the council chamber. . . It is shameful how this community was treated,” Lagore said. “Eight months ago staff were not seen in this room unless necessary, and they were nervous when they were in the room.”

Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver dispatched Lagore to Chestermere in September 2022, installing him to monitor then-Mayor Jeff Colvin’s embattled City Hall, over which Lagore had the power to override any decisions made. The relationship between the supervisor and the now-ousted council members was acrimonious from the beginning.

While the province ordered the city to follow Lagore’s instructions, he said he only received financial information once when he requested his review: the first time he requested it.

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“Once I got it, I asked questions and then they wouldn’t let (the city’s finance manager) give me any more information, so that bothered me,” he said.

“To compound the way they treated people here, they locked the doors so I didn’t have access to the bathroom. “That’s minor, but it shows how people were treated in this building.”

“We hope you never have to return.”

When the Alberta government fired Colvin and councilors Mel Foat, Blaine Funk and Stephen Hanley (each of whom were unsuccessful in their re-election bids on Monday) in December, Lagore was named their interim replacement until an election partial could fill the empty seats on the council.

The province also fired three senior city officials at the time, appointing interim chief administrative officer Pat Vincent in their place.

Over the past six months, Lagore has unilaterally moved, voted on and approved every single city resolution and charter, much of the deconstruction work done under Colvin’s leadership.

Three residents praised the outgoing administrator during Tuesday’s council meeting. Alex Halat told Lagore that he had brought back a “sense of morale and happiness” to the community, while Joanne Lemna thanked him for supporting the city “when we needed it most.”

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“Doug, don’t take this the wrong way, but we hope you never have to return to Chestermere,” Patty Sproule joked. “But please don’t be a stranger. “We will miss you very much.”

Staff members also presented him with a banner signed by many city employees.

The final resolution Lagore signed before passing the torch to the city’s newly elected officials was symbolic: accepting the community’s recognition of him and his work in serving Chestermere residents.

“Reluctantly, I will,” he told Vincent, earning laughter from the packed council chamber. “I don’t like to be recognized. “I prefer to do my job without being recognized.”

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Speech is a ‘call to action,’ says mayor-elect

The city’s new elected officials will replace Lagore after they are sworn in on July 3..

Mayor-elect Shannon Dean called Lagore’s speech a “call to action” for him and his new council to make sure they do things by the book, while some incoming first-term councilors said they were moved by the words of the experienced official.

Mayor-elect Shannon Dean poses after a council meeting on Tuesday, June 25, 2024, in the city of Chestermere, east of Calgary.
Mayor-elect Shannon Dean poses after a council meeting on Tuesday, June 25, 2024, in the town of Chestermere, east of Calgary. Photo by Jim Wells/Postmedia

“I was in tears when I heard it,” said Councilor-elect Janelle Sandboe. “Lagore has done a very good job of keeping things moving and heading in the right direction in the absence of advice, so my gratitude to him, without a doubt.”

Future Councilman Robert Schindler said: “What he had to put up with was simply unacceptable and he deserves all the praise for what he has done for our community. “I think all of Chestermere owes him a great debt of gratitude.”

Count. Ritesh Narayan, who retained his seat during the byelection (having served alongside Dean as a councilor on Colvin council and escaped provincial layoffs) said the official administrator’s words “brought back some memories.”

“I was there with him,” Narayan said. “While he was speaking his heart out about him, I was also very emotional. . . I take my hat off to him not only for staying but for having that professional and assertive presence to help this community get out of the situation we find ourselves in.”

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‘Raised the level of governance in Chestermere’

Vincent told Postmedia on Tuesday that he is open to staying on as the city’s top official permanently.

Dean and some council members have expressed a willingness to retain Vincent, who also has about 50 years of experience in municipal government.

“We need to retain Pat Vincent for as long as we can because, between the two individuals, they have really raised the level of governance in Chestermere,” Narayan said.

Vincent said the issue of the city’s next CAO will be among the topics discussed once the new council members are sworn in.

Lagore will remain on city council until the end of July, when his provincial appointment ends, and will help newly elected council members better learn their roles during that period.

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