“I hope there is interest. You need a level of commitment.” – Denis Carter
Denis Carter will be passing the gavel, so to speak, after 23 years of bringing meetings to order. Carter has been a reeve for all of his years on council, first for the RM of Woodworth and most recently for one term with the RM of Wallace-Woodworth, but he is not going to run in the October election.
He recently said, “You have to draw the end line somewhere,” adding wryly, that his “best before date” was up.
Carter runs the meetings with a no-nonsense style, quickly moving from one matter to the next on what is usually a hefty agenda for the public meetings. Sometimes councillors pop their hand up and interject, to make certain their comments or questions go on record.
As head of council with Woodworth, Carter, along with many reeves, fought amalgamation to the end, until it became a certainty.
When the opportunity came to run for reeve of the newly formed Wallace-Woodworth, he threw his hat into the ring in 2014, actively campaigning against Don Neufeld, the reeve of the former Wallace municipality. Carter campaigned with enthusiasm and won decisively.
The Empire-Advance had questions for him.
Q. What are the requirements as reeve?
A. “I hope there’s interest. You need a level of commitment. I always thought that for the agricultural people thinking of running, they’ve got to really get their head around it, July-August type of thing. Most of them tend to be busy when the day comes to be ‘in’.”
Q. Was there a learning curve, when you first took on the reeve’s job?
A. “I think that’s always been the case. I had a training ground of a very orderly meeting. I was on the school board for eight years. If anything, I think [my background] changed the way things were even done when I first went on the municipal council. The first meeting I went to, the agenda was hand-written on a little piece of paper with about five items on it (laughs). Not really the type of structure I came from. We got that changed up and made it much more orderly.
Q. What was it like finding yourself in a much larger role with the amalgamated Wallace-Woodworth municipality?
A. “The biggest hill for me to climb, with amalgamation, was basically we were doing just one meeting a month, but now this was a committee meeting plus two regular meetings a month.
“I always thought we could get it to one meeting a month, but it was much busier with amalgamation. The Wallace ward was a busier situation. There needs to be one morning and one evening meeting to keep things going. I agree with that.”
Q. After three years of amalgamation, has it been a good thing?
A. “I think basically the reduction in the number of political positions, that’s been a good thing. A lot of the wards, even in the larger municipalities, no one ever ran.
“When they amalgamated, you need half as many people again, and that’s been a good thing.
“If anything, it should make people think ‘this is a bigger deal that I’m responsible for, let’s get more interested in this and make it work.’”
Q. What about the financial remuneration?
A. “We basically just used all the money that was being expended in the three corporations (Elkhorn, Wallace and Woodworth) and put it all into one. Money shouldn’t matter, you’ve got to be interested in doing the job, but you’ve got to be remunerated. Some days, your business has to come first, but if you’re organized in what you’re doing, you can get through it. I’ve done it for 23 years.”
Q. What recent accomplishments are you happy about?
A. “The new fire hall office in Kenton was a nice accomplishment, without putting anything [additional] on the taxes. We had levied a small tax to fix up the grader garage. We left it in place until we had enough money to build an office in the fire hall.”
Q. Things seem to move slowly in government. How’s your patience?
A. “Any of the major projects you’re working on, it takes years and years to see them through. You think you aren’t getting anywhere and all of a sudden it comes to fruition. I would cite the water treatment plant in Kenton (which became a reality recently)
Q. What new projects did you undertake?
A. “As far as in the new municipality, when we amalgamated it was basically, just carrying on with all the projects they had underway to begin with.
“It would be nice to see the handling of the household garbage where everybody was on even keel.
In Ward 1 we have the dumpster system where people can dump their garbage in dumpsters located around the ward. In the Wallace Ward (2) they don’t have that ability. We need to upgrade that.”
Q. What has been your motivation to serve on your local government?
A. “I was musing about it the other day, you fall into something and ... holy smoke, there it is - 23 years go by. You just did it.”
Q. You served from 1987 – 95 on the school board?
A. “When I first started out on the school board, I refused the first time, and I didn’t get away with it the second time nominations came around.
I basically dumped out one briefcase full of papers in ’95 and filled it up with some other ones from [RM of] Woodworth. And that’s the honest truth. I remember thinking to myself... just dumped out the briefcase full of papers and headed into the next meeting.”
Q. So, for the next term, who is going to run? Any ideas?
A. “You know, I’ve had a couple of calls from people that are interested. I always talk to them about commitment. You have to get your head around this thing, earlier than later, when you are busy. It would be nice, you know, if we could see elections for all the positions.”
Denis and Marcia Carter have farmed near Kenton for over 40 years. Now, their son Ryan has bought into the operation and the families work together. Carter says his door is open to anyone who wants to ask him about the reeve’s position or work on council and encourages the public to sit in on a regular public meeting.