By George Brown
Larry Henkelman will seek a third term as Ponoka’s mayor.
He was first elected mayor in 2004 after serving four terms as a councillor. In 2007, he, along with the rest of town council, was acclaimed to office.
He expects there could be competition this year but no other candidate have come forward. “That’s okay, I believe in elections. There’s nothing wrong with having an election.
“I’ve enjoyed my last couple terms as mayor and I’ve enjoyed working with the council we’ve had,” he said.
“We’ve got a lot of things accomplished that have been on the books for years.”
Henkelman said one of council’s priorities must be to get the community ready for growth once the economy fully rebounds. “We have to get the community ready to attract new business and industry.
And Ponoka is in good position to do that. The town had slower growth compared to other municipalities in the Highway 2 corridor but that has given council and administration time to get its growth strategy in place.
“Our community is so far ahead of other communities with our infrastructure,” he said.
And the town will make more industrial land available for development once annexation has been approved.
“There’s still work to be done on annexation,” Henkelman said. “It’s still not quite there.”
Henkelman admits the town’s annexation proposal “got off on the wrong foot and we had people mad and upset but we finally resolved it.”
“Did we learn from it? Definitely. Would we handle the next annexation differently? Yes we would.”
He said council shouldn’t have tried to annex so much land but neighbouring landowners asked to be included in the proposal, inflating the annexation. “In hindsight we should have said no.”
Council hopes to have government approval in the new year, he added. “I’ve already had businesses approach me to see when it (new industrial land) will be available.”
Once annexation has cabinet approval, the town needs to work on a new intermunicipal development plan with Ponoka County to improve their political relationship and head off any future problems.
“This council has really worked well with the Alberta government. It’s shown too. We’ve gotten a lot of support from them on projects such as the ag society building and the 57th Avenue crossing.”
Opening the 57th Avenue railway crossing last winter was a major accomplishment of this council, Henkelman said. “That had been on the books for about 15 years. Our other railway crossing wasn’t safe. We had trucks that almost got high-centred on it.”
He points to the arena renovations the new Community Activities Centre, Ag-Events Centre, the artificial ice outdoor rink and the rebuilding of 50th Street as projects that show Ponoka is ready for its next wave of growth.
“It should be an interesting next three years because there’s lots of things in the works,” Henkelman said. “I think the town’s going to keep moving forward. We’ve got to get our community ready for business.
“I’m looking forward to one more term.”