Since Mr. John D. McGillivray, the first Mayor of the Town of Ponoka and his council were sworn into office in 1904 many decades of town councils have faithfully looked after the business and the steady growth and countless issues and challenges of leading this great community each and every day and long and into the future.
In those early days the terms of municipal councils were two years, which changed to three in 1971 and then to four very hectic and demanding years around the oval table in 2013. Between now and the October 2017 municipal election we will feature some of the colourful history, countless successes and progress, as well as the red-hot and often controversial issues that have been handled by our Ponoka town councils, both then and now. Along with a heavy agenda all of our elected officials have and always will be under the constant scrutiny of those hardy community critics and coffee shop politicians, assuring that every second Tuesday will always be some sort of an adventure.
1961 was a very busy year here in Ponoka
The 1961 Ponoka town council was led by Mayor Don McCrimmon, and included councillors Ralph Bartram, August Cerveny, Jim Mark, Fred Auten, and Elmer Pendleton, the latter who no matter what always maintained that it was a great day.
With the municipal election scheduled for October 1961 that council had many major issues and projects to complete, including the closing of the 54 Street highway two crossing, the addition of a front lobby to the arena, the not so popular installation of parking meters, the final planning for the much-needed new town hall, the resignation of the long-standing secretary-treasurer, and much more.
Mr. J.H. (Jake) Galbraith, who had faithfully served as the secretary for the Town of Ponoka for 26 years was requesting council’s approval of his resignation effective in September 1961, which was accepted with deep regret as well as appreciation for his dedicated services. Don Saunders was appointed as the returning officer for the forthcoming election, and would later take over the duties of the secretary. Council heard a letter from W.C. Schantz, supported by a petition signed by 22 taxpayers, against the proposed plan to close down the busy 54 Street pedestrian crossing of Highway 2 as advertised in the Ponoka Herald. Another group led by Don Jardine felt that efforts to decrease the traffic past the school would not solve the problem of our children’s safety. They also made recommendations that an all-out program of educating our children would be the best way to assure their safety, as well as the addition by the town of stricter policing along the road as well as the displaying of new large and improved signs to better control the heavy traffic in the area. After lengthy discussion it was decided that the whole matter should await the routing of the new provincial highway, which was presently in the final planning stages under the direction of Highways Minister Gordon Taylor.
Three local delegations were on hand at the October council meeting to speak to the proposed extension of the front of the Ponoka arena. Both the Ponoka Figure Skating Club and the Ponoka Stampeder Hockey Club were very much in favour of the project, which would include a heated front lobby, concession stand, seating, and many other amenities for both participants and fans. Ardent local hockey promoter and businessman Angus MacLeod was very anxious to proceed with the welcome addition, stressing that more fans would come to events with the comfortable lobby available as well as jovially suggesting that just the smell of the amazing hamburgers, hot dogs, fries, and all the rest of the treats prepared by the Stampeder’s Ladies’ Auxiliary would attract young and old alike to the rink. Faye Johnston was against the new arena front, stating that there was already too many ‘halls’ available in town, but it would be finally approved by council providing that the entire cost was covered by the $36,000 recreation grant from the government. In other business the 60 minute for a nickel parking meters will be installed on the north side of 50 Avenue between 51 and 52 streets, as well as a 12 minute meter in front of the telephone building.
Fast forward to the October 31, 1961 election, this would turn out to be one of heaviest voter turnouts ever recorded in the Town of Ponoka, with 47 per cent of the eligible voters casting ballots. Debs Nelson defeated Jim Mark in the mayoralty race by a 792 to 326 count, while Arthur Wedin, a progressive newcomer and retail merchant would lead the polls for the two councillor positions available, followed by veteran member Fred Auten (486). Also running in the aggressive race but not making the cut were candidates Dick Latiff (421), Allan James (347) and Phil Derksen (199). The plebiscite for the approval of spending $125,000 on a new Ponoka Town Hall won decisively with 565 taxpayers in favour and 177 opposed.
Now why not get excited and jump ahead again and start thinking about our next election on October 16, 2017? Of course there are already lots of rumours floating about who may or may not be running for mayor and council for the next four year term on Ponoka town council, but it’s never too early to get involved in the excitement of a good old election campaign. Good luck to all those who choose to proudly represent their community.