It’s said that after passing the 100-day mark, a person elected to a position of leadership should have a good idea where things stand as far as the issues being faced by their community and how they’ve fared in steering the ship.
Maureen Weiterman, mayor of the Town of Outlook, is glad to have help in the form of her council and office staff to help steer that ship as she and the six people elected to lead the town have now passed those 100 days.
“I think that the town of Outlook has elected a good council,” said Maureen, sitting down with The Outlook on Thursday, February 25. “I’m so pleased to be working with the people that are on council. We’ve got a lot of knowledge there: some corporate knowledge, business owners, people with expertise in different departments. They’ve all got some really exceptional things to offer, and that’s what I’m really excited about. There are a great bunch of ladies who work in that office, too, they’re just amazing. And how much we really appreciate Luke and the guys in the shop, who do the heavy work. Kelton at the water treatment plant, and Dylan at the landfill. As usual, they have their heads down and are doing a great job keeping the town running physically. We really appreciate that.”
Those who know Weiterman know that she calls a spade a spade and she won’t mince words. It’s this attitude that may have struck a chord with the voters when she was soundly elected as Outlook’s first female mayor in last November’s municipal election. To that end, Weiterman believes that now with the early phase of Council’s term in the rear-view mirror, it’s time to focus on what’s in front of the community.
“We’re no longer ‘new’, in my view. That’s not an excuse anymore, ‘Oh, we’re new now’, well, we’re not new now,” she said. “It’s been 100 days, we’re no longer new and we need to be up to snuff. That being said, we’re so excited with the progress just in the last couple of days to do with the landfill, and that’s exciting. These things start clicking along and you start to see the end of a project. I think when we get one of these projects under our belt, the next ones become easier and easier. Projects such as intake, slope stability, development of more properties, and that sort of thing. My thing is, I’m open to talk to anyone, as are any of our councillors. It’s important to hear the ratepayers on anything that they have to say.”
On the topic of hearing what ratepayers have to say, Weiterman had previously said prior to the election that she planned to hold open houses once a week for the public to come and speak to her, but restrictions related to the COVID pandemic put the kibosh on that, notably after the town offices building was closed off to the public. Now that the office is back open, Maureen says she will work on making an open house type of environment with the public possible, so long as the provincial COVID guidelines allow it. In the meantime, the mayor has given this reporter permission to publish her cell number (306-860-9559) and email (firstname.lastname@example.org) to ratepayers, and she says she’s happy to speak to anyone in-person if a ratepayer wants to make a face-to-face appointment to discuss what’s important to them. These are some of the things Weiterman wants people to know as far as the ratepayers’ accessibility to their elected mayor, but one thing she won’t do for the time being is call for any form of public gathering.
“I have had some requests for a public meeting,” she said. “But I need to say that we will not be having a public meeting until ALL of the public can attend. Apparently, right now you can have 30 people in attendance, but until EVERYONE who wants to come to a public meeting can come, then I don’t think it’s fair to call a public meeting because Person #31 isn’t going to be happy. However, it’s on our list of things to do as soon as we can do it safely.”
Positions of leadership such as Maureen’s, as well as that of the rest of Council – Sharon Bruce, Justin Turton, Bob Stephenson, Kyle McLeod, Kevin Grotheim, and Ryan Husband – call for tough decisions, and one was made recently with the termination of Chief Administrative Officer, Erinn Schreiner. This made for the latest administrator to exit the role in Outlook, and Weiterman wonders if it was the right decision for the previous council to have hired Schreiner just days before November’s election. Regardless, Maureen says the search for a new person to take on the position isn’t one that she and Council will take lightly.
“We just let an administrator go, which is unfortunate because no one wanted to see her succeed more than I did,” she said. “It was a difficult decision, and we were sad, but it wasn’t going to work out for us, so we had to dismiss her. Rachel will be able to carry us over now as she has a good mentor. The search for a new administrator, we’re going to go at it slowly. I mean, I’m not saying six months or anything, but we want to be on top of it and get the best that we can get. That’s no reflection on who has come before, but for us, this is the tactic that we’re going to take. We desperately need someone to lead us because that’s what a CAO does; they lead us through the tasks that we have. The previous council left us a big basket, and we’ve been going through the basket and we’re getting up to speed.”
Weiterman wonders if it was the right decision for the previous council to have hired an administrator just days before November’s election, but while the CAO position does indeed sit vacated right now, it isn’t the only one as the Town’s recreation director, Trevor Ouellette, was also dismissed back in December. In that case, Weiterman says the person filling that role right now – Megan Anthony – is someone who the Town would support if she wanted the role full-time down the road.
“In my opinion only, when someone is released, it’s usually because you’re just not meshing with the people that you’re with,” said Maureen. “The choice was made to dismiss Trevor, and Megan was right there, and she is very keen and enthusiastic. We’re hoping for great things from her, and we’d support her if she wanted to take classes. She has some great ideas, and if she works out as a recreation director, that’s great. I believe that Erinn’s contract started on the 2nd of November, but she actually started on the 28th of October. I had just wished, and I didn’t make an issue of it, but I wished the previous council had waited and let us hire our own administrator. They felt they needed one and so that’s why they did it, and that’s what they thought was best, so I can’t grouch about that. No one wanted her to succeed more than Council and I. Sometimes your wishes and dreams just don’t come true.”
Right now, Mayor and Council are both excited about current projects on the go, such as what’s happening out at the town landfill, including the installation of a scale, a pole shed going up to store the compactor, an eco shed, and the former airport hangar relocated to the landfill in order to be retrofitted into an attendant building.
As well, there are those extensive renovations to the Civic Centre, a project which Maureen is looking forward to seeing turn the corner.
“We’re ready to go to tender on it,” she said. “We have an accessibility grant to do the bathrooms, and we have to use that money because with grant monies, if you don’t use it, you lose it. But first of all, I hope the landfill will click along and that will be done so that we can start on the Civic Centre next. Of course, the water intake is very high on our priority list, as is what’s going on along the riverbank. Those things HAVE to be high on our list.”
One major project that was a hot button topic with many ratepayers, particularly near the end of the previous council’s term is a new fire hall. Weiterman says the project is on the mind of Council, even if it isn’t perhaps on their immediate radar right now.
“People are going to wonder where we are on a fire hall, and I’m still in favor of a fire hall, one that’s within our means, but it won’t be happening in the next couple of years just because we have so much on the go right now,” she said. “The rest of council is very adamant that we don’t take on anything new until we’ve handled a few things that are in front of us. Because the previous council had so many good ideas and we’re picking up where they left off, we have to go with those. We have to go forward. The fire hall isn’t off our radar as our Protection Committee is gathering all of the information that’s been accumulated over the last 4-5 years with all the different plans, and when COVID allows, we’re going to go and look at some fire halls!”
One of the things that Weiterman has been happy to see recently is the improved relations between the Town and the Sun West School Division on the topic of the community’s library located at Outlook High School. The goal in mind is to see the library stay put at its current location and work towards what needs to be done for all parties to be satisfied.
“Everybody wants to work towards a common goal, which I believe is to leave the library where it is,” said Maureen. “There are some issues such as the safety of students and the public, so there are talks of getting some outside public doors installed. We would also have to have a public washroom in there. We really shouldn’t have the public mingling in the school, and by the sounds of things, we’re going to do a site visit and then see how much all of this is going to cost. We have to know what we want and then see how it’ll happen. I’d love to see some front doors possibly to the west, and then maybe a multi-use washroom that can be used by anyone. But the lines of communication are open and we’re willing to work together.”
The mayor is also glad to see relationships being improved and restrengthened between the Town and the RM of Rudy, as well as the Joint Health Committee. Recent meetings that the Town has held with those groups were said to have gone very well, as “everybody is in this boat together and we want to work for the common good of the whole area”, said Maureen.
The mayor is also excited about the future Veterans Memorial Park, giving big credit to how Outlook Branch #262 of the Royal Canadian Legion has been moving that project along. The park will be located on the greenspace at the corner of McKenzie Street and Saskatchewan Avenue, a site she says has the potential to make for a beautiful addition to the town.
One of the things looking the Town straight in the eye is the need for more housing. Weiterman touched on a recent presentation by Urban Systems to Council that highlighted a housing analysis of Outlook, noting that it didn’t exactly tell her any brand-new information, but it did reinforce what needs to be done in the future.
“I don’t think it told us anything that we didn’t already know,” said Maureen. “If you’re on top of things and you understand how cities and towns work, then that stuff doesn’t become surprising. I don’t think anyone is ever surprised at the housing situation. I wish there had been more engagement from the building and development sector, but other than that, I think they told us exactly what we thought they were going to tell us and tell us the direction we need to go. We need to start looking at more housing and the kind of housing that we want. We need more downtown that’s closer for seniors, for one thing. No one’s going to build a mansion on Simpson Street at the corner by the D&E, but someone would live in a townhouse there or an apartment. People want to be close to the café, close to groceries, close to the post office, that kind of stuff.”
Weiterman also knows that Outlook’s water system is something that needs to be constantly discussed as far as future direction is concerned. A recent month-end report given to Council stated that over six million imperial gallons of water went through the Town’s treatment plant, a number that astounds the mayor. What may be even more astounding is the knowledge that Outlook may in fact stand out above all others in Saskatchewan as far as water usage, causing some to wonder if we perhaps take the vital H20 for granted.
“It comes from living right along the river; we’ve always had it,” said Maureen. “We take it for granted. We’ve never had to turn on the tap and worry if water’s coming out. That’s something to think about. When I first came on council, that’s one of the things that I was so shocked about. I thought it CAN’T be that much, but it IS that much!"
"I was told that we in Outlook do in fact use the most water in the province, per capita.”
With the years that are ahead of Weiterman and Council, she says it’s all about putting their best feet forward and having the community’s best interests at the heart of every discussion, debate, and decision. It’s a role in which Maureen is still trying to find her full comfortability, but the responsibility placed on her and Council isn’t something anyone is taking lightly.
“I think things would be way different if COVID wasn’t here,” she said. “Being the mayor is an entirely different thing to me than being on Council. I’m doing my best and I WILL do my best. Of course, there are going to be people who think I’m not doing well, but that’s just politics. I know that if I feel I’m giving you my best, then I can’t give you anything more. I couldn’t ask for a better council, and we’re very grateful for the continuity we have from the previous council with Kyle (McLeod) and Kevin (Grotheim), as well as a former mayor with some corporate knowledge, and then someone who knows accounting, someone who knows insurance, we have an engineer, and someone like Rachel who has more of that corporate knowledge that we’ve used. I think we get along well. We’re not always going to agree, and that’s going to happen, but we will all act like adults and do what we need to do because it’s for the betterment of this town.”