By Becky Benoit
The newest member of Wood Buffalo’s municipal council is a familiar face around Fort McMurray. Colleen Tatum, a born-and-raised Fort McMurray girl, has long been an integral part of her community, both as a member of the small business community and as an active volunteer and mom.
Tatum, who won her seat on council in the June by-election, facing down stiff competition from many savvy political adversaries, says that being a local girl has provided her with a political edge and a unique understanding of the true nature of the community.
“Being born in Fort McMurray gave me a youth filled with small-town security, where the pioneer spirit was alive. Everyone came together to make sure that we all had what we needed, and I think we still do that,” she says. “That core of a northern remote society created a need to stick together, and I still feel that spirit here today.”
Tatum faced numerous challenges when she and her husband opened their own business, MXC Racing and Off-Road, which today is thriving and successful. “Starting our business was filled with so much stress, learning and challenges,” she recalls ruefully. “We didn’t have enough staff, or enough money. However, we were lucky to have good loyal customers that are still with us today. When we needed to expand but couldn’t afford trades to do the construction, customers came and volunteered. They tore down walls, painted, brought us pizza and worked late into the night.”
“That’s what I mean by the pioneer spirit – it’s a community coming together to get something done because they truly care.”
It was that same pioneer spirit that inspired Tatum to run for council. “I love this town, its people and its potential,” she says. “I’m raising my family here and I want to make sure I’ve done absolutely everythingI can to make it a great place. I’m not willing to leave it to chance.”
Tatum has won the confidence and support of many of her fellow residents for her keen recognition of many of the needs of Fort McMurray, particularly those of families. She says she’s committed to improving quality of life for people in the region now, as well as in the future.
“I’m not a huge visionary. I believe in taking each day and making it the most it can be. If I focus so muchenergy thinking about and planning for the future, the present can be forgotten,” she says. “That said, I hope to continue to serve our community and to continue to grow my business. Most importantly, I want to really enjoy my family, to raise happy, healthy children. That is going to be my greatest accomplishment of all.”