A school counsellor and active volunteer sports coach is the latest person to throw his hat into the ring for the fall municipal election.
École H. J. Cody High School counsellor Jas Payne announced his candidacy during an interview Tuesday.
He and his family moved to Sylvan Lake five years ago when he accepted a position as vice principal at the school. They chose Sylvan Lake from many options because they felt it was the “best community for our kids’ future”.
Declaring he’ll seek a seat on Sylvan Lake council, Payne said, “in no way do I think council is doing a poor job. I think they’re doing a good job considering extenuating factors.”
One of those is rapid growth. In the five years he’s been here, the town has grown by 1,900 people.
“Too many times I’m asking myself why did they (council) do that. Rather than sit back and criticize, I’d rather be the one being criticized,” Payne said.
“I have a strong moral and ethical sense. I listen well. I think that’s the thing missing from council, the listening part, the communications part.
“I truly love this community, I love Sylvan Lake. I would like to see growth and prosperity continue.” At the same time he added, “I think the community needs to be more involved in decisions that are made. More involved in understanding why council is making decisions they make.”
Payne spent four years as vice principal of H. J. Cody before switching to the role of counsellor last year. “The opportunity to do administration for four years showed me where my strengths were. They truly were in counselling, in listening and directing.”
That decision has freed up time that will be necessary in the role of town councillor.
“The skills I have are suited to council. Rationally thinking through decisions, thinking through processes and asking why are we doing what we’re doing.”
Payne admitted to no previous political experience but said he has worked with people in politics, in university elections supporting those running, never as a leader but always as a counsellor.
He also admits to being an ‘armchair’ councillor, talking to people and being asked opinions. “I’ve decided it’s time to get out of the armchair.”
Urgent care is a big issue for him. He’s also interested in finding partnerships to develop community resources. “The town, growing the way it is, is in dire need of a change in perspective with regard to education. We need new schools.” By working in partnership with the community and business he believes we can “build core pieces of the community” such as those in other communities in the province with things like sports, culture and wellness centres as part of education facilities.
One of his personal issues is with town communications. Many people don’t know what’s happening. One example of that, he said, was when the landmark lighthouse was removed. He asked neighbours if they knew that was happening and “none of us had any idea what was going on. I’d like to know and be part of major decisions.”
The downtown area is another area he’s thought about. “Every year I plan the grad for 2,000 to 3,000 people who watch convocation at the multiplex. Then in the evening we have to go to Red Deer for a banquet for 500-700 people because we can’t accommodate that in Sylvan Lake. I wonder why a convention centre hasn’t been built. Not by the town. But a conference centre that could bring people to Sylvan Lake in the winter. Allowing private money in the province to find its way here.”
Noting things aren’t like they were 15 years ago, he said he’d like to see a shift in thought so we can make the lake more useful for the community 12 months of the year and not just three and a half months of the year.
“Community involvement is very important. I think everybody has an obligation to be involved. Council is an extension of that obligation. If you feel you can do it, you should,” Payne said.
Married nearly 20 years to Becca, they have three children, Jonny, Jake and Mia. He came to Sylvan Lake five years ago from Fort McMurray where he was a high school counsellor.
Payne earned Bachelor and Master of Education degrees from the University of Alberta with emphasis in language and communications. “My personal growth plan is to increase communications, understanding between all parties involved in a situation, make sure everyone understands where everyone is.”
An avid sports coach, he’s been involved with his children’s soccer teams and has coached football and basketball at H. J. Cody. “My children are my biggest focus. The only way to ensure your children are going to be safe is to be involved in their lives.”