Among the big surprises in this year’s election in the Town of Ponoka was seeing Larry Henkelman run for mayor.
The former mayor has quite a history of public and community work in Ponoka, with seven terms overall as councillor and mayor.
Henkelman, who had three terms of mayor under his belt — the last two acclaimed — said after selling his Home Furnishings business a few months back, he wanted to get involved in the town’s business again. Looking back at his years in public office, Henkelman was pleased with his councils of the day.
He feels his leadership skills would be ideal to help this council be, “…accountable and a council that works together so I can definitely add that advantage.”
Since his retirement he feels he can offer more time to the town if voted as mayor. Henkelman suggests the biggest issue residents are concerned about is the relationship between the town and county of Ponoka.
“I can quite happily say that when I was mayor, and my council, we always seemed to have a fair, to good, relationship with the county,” said Henkelman.
When asked about the need for two fire departments within the Town of Ponoka boundaries, Henkelman replied the town has to get back to the table with the county but added that, “regionalization with any department is always good.”
“You get better cooperation with the government. You’re bound to cut some costs,” he said, adding that he doesn’t know the full details behind his past council’s decision.
Regardless of a decision, however, Henkelman suggests town council needs to work as a team. “I will be stressing that as a mayor in trying to lead my councillors.”
“We need cooperation…we need a lot of commitment from our councillors.”
Another area of focus for Henkelman is in seniors’ housing facilities. He feels there aren’t enough spots for seniors in Ponoka and he wants more options for them. “People want to stay local.”
He also wants to see the town create opportunities by developing more land. Henkelman said some years ago the town developed 40-acres of land in the Southwest Industrial Park.
When asked about what appears to have been slow development in the Town of Ponoka and recent observations of that, Henkelman replied that is unfair to previous councils. He pointed out that development in the Southwest Industrial Park is a prime example of work done years prior.
He added that now there was once land near the spur line in the Northeast Industrial Park.
Some issues may have been set aside because council did have to make some priority changes. As an example Henkelman said money was set aside for a new bridge but development of 50 Street and access to the Northeast Industrial Park changed those needs.
As for services in town, Henkelman would like to see recycling options for businesses and a scheduling change to the town’s waste collection. “Talking to some citizens, they feel that garbage pick up in the summer should be once a week.”
While the service costs may go up, he says the health and safety of the community needs to be considered.
If elected as mayor, Henkelman says he’d like to see council work closer with businesses and service organizations plus he wants to see additional land ready and serviced for commercial development.
Since Henkelman left public office, much has changed within the town’s operations including the use of social media. He said that while it will be a change for him if elected as mayor, the public needs to know what’s going on with the town. He wants to be the person to take on that role.