Shocking the town, Ken Waddell has stepped down as mayor of Neepawa.
Citing stress and a number of municipal aggravations, Waddell said he had enjoyed his years as mayor but couldn't do it any longer.
"I'm physically fine, but emotionally drained," Waddell said.
Waddell served a total of six-and-a-half years in two stints as mayor, including 1998–2002 and 2012–14. He's also been active in provincial and federal politics.
However, he said today that he had no other political aspirations and was instead looking forward to spending time with his family and concentrating on their business interests, which include the Rivers Banner and Neepawa Banner newspapers.
Neepawa's CAO, Richard Beachey, said that Waddell's resignation came as a complete surprise to him.
Ken Waddell's full statement
Information release from Ken Waddell, Neepawa, Manitoba
For a number of reasons I have tendered my resignation as mayor of Neepawa as of July 9, 2014 and have decided not to run for the office of mayor this fall. It has been very gratifying to hear from the many people who have asked me to run for another term this fall.
I am no longer able to handle the workload and stress that has developed for a variety of reasons. Going forward, I plan to devote my time to my family and our business interests.
Thank you to the Town of Neepawa staff for their support and for their ongoing service to the Town of Neepawa. Just recently, we achieved the goal of filling every staff position so that the Town of Neepawa has all staff positions filled for the first time in years.
I have many reasons for my decision.
While I have enjoyed my 6 1/2 years as mayor (1998-2002) and (2012-2014) there are too many things that I believe need to change.
Under the Municipal Act, the mayor is required to vote on every resolution but under the Town of Neepawa rules, the mayor cannot debate resolutions. Even though rate payers offer many of their suggestions (and their complaints) directly to the mayor, the mayor must sit silently by while council debates an issue and that needs to change. If the mayor is supposed to vote on a resolution, then the mayor should be allowed to speak if they so wish on a resolution. Under the current system, the mayor has to shoulder a lot of responsibility for things that they have little input into and may have no control over.
Going back several years, I have not agreed with the direction of council on the ongoing management of Human Resources issues. This has been a long standing problem for the Town of Neepawa. I don't see it changing any time soon but it does need to be resolved. Council gets way too involved in human resources issues. If I were younger, perhaps I could work through these challenges but I feel I cannot do so.
Another factor is municipal amalgamation. The Neepawa area has a long history of the districts and municipalities cooperating. From the distant past right up to the present day, such projects as East View Lodge, the chicken barns, The Budz 'N' Bloom day care, the Beautiful Plains Medical Clinic and the joint administration of Neepawa-Langford that existed from 2000-2011 were all examples of growing the community in a cooperative manner. The new affordable housing project being applied for by NADCO and the Kinsmen Seniors Housing Inc. holds promise as well. I was supportive of all these past and present initiatives over the years.
However, I cannot support the tearing apart of the Neepawa area that came about by the disintegration of the joint admin agreement between Langford and Neepawa. Any hope of retrieving that in the near future has been squashed by the municipal amalgamations that have taken place. In addition, the Neepawa and Area Planning District and other entities will change or may even die off due to municipal amalgamation. Many long standing agreements are in doubt as amalgamation unfolds. As a group of municipal partners, we should have grabbed the opportunity to amalgamate all the Neepawa and Area Development Corporation (NADCO) partners together.
I regret that we haven't yet got a new firehall, hopefully it's coming soon. I also regret that we have not been able to move faster on housing and infrastructure initiatives.
If I were younger, perhaps I could carry on and I would like to carry on but the work load is affecting my health and my family life. More than any other comment that people have made to me over the years has been, "I don't know how you do it, I don't know how you handle the stress." The truth is that I can now no longer handle the stress or the time commitment. I will be phasing out of all my other community duties as well. I am finishing my last term on the Lily Festival board and this will be my last term on the Yellowhead Centre board. Of course I am now automatically off all town committees.
Neepawa is a fantastic area, one in which we have lived for most of our adult life. Many people have contributed hugely to making this a better place to live. I like to think I have made a bit of a contribution in our 43 years in the Neepawa area. It's time for new, and possibly younger, leadership to take over and I wish everyone well.
As I said earlier, I plan to now devote my time to my family and our business interests. In our family and in our business, younger (and likely more capable) people are gradually taking over and I can slow down. After many years of politics being our life, perhaps now we can get a different life.
May God bless you and yours,