The myth of the lazy city worker

Connecting Council – Public Letter

By TYRAN AULT, Councillor, Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo

Letter-TYRAN AULT

I’ve always believed that one of the major jobs of elected municipal officials is to collect public input and then to set a vision for a city or town (or municipality in our case) to work towards. That vision could see major changes or minor tweaks. We’ve seen many different visions of Fort McMurray and the rest of Wood Buffalo come and go over the years.

Some Councils have called for massive redevelopment and some have called for staying the course. We all have our own ideas for Fort McMurray’s future and whether previous visions were right or wrong is up to individual interpretation.

Regardless of what Council’s vision is, it is up to our municipal employees to make each vision become a reality, while also making sure we have the best basic services we can provide.

That’s why I’m using my turn of our rotating Connecting Council column to simply say “thanks”. Thanks to the municipal employees for carrying out those visions and ensuring residents are taken care of each and every day.

Municipal employees all too often get a bad rap – and not just in Fort McMurray. While I was on a recent vacation, our tour bus passed by a municipally-branded vehicle where three people in hard hats were having lunch. Another tour guest laughed, “Oh look, they have lazy city workers here too!”

My blood boiled. Unfortunately, these comments happen all across North America. Let me tell you about the “lazy city workers,” I know. They’re the people who are clearing sidewalks when it’s minus 30 degrees outside. They’re the people who are making sure your water is safe to drink. And they’re the people running into the burning building when everyone else is running away.

Are there going to be legitimate issues or concerns with some work done by municipal employees? Of course, no job is immune to problems.

In a city of this size, we all have family members, friends or colleagues who work as municipal employees – myself included. Especially when compared to the difficult work being done in local oil sands industry (and it is difficult), the work being done by municipal employees is often undervalued. But let me assure you, it’s not lazy work.

But labeling an entire workforce with negative stigmas needs to change. Locally, we on Council often hear directly from municipal employees who want to be challenged and take on more responsibility. They want to take risks, embrace problems and find solutions. Lazy is the last thing I think of when I think of those “city workers”.

In a city of this size, we all have family members, friends or colleagues who work as municipal employees – myself included. Especially when compared to the difficult work being done in local oil sands industry (and it is difficult), the work being done by municipal employees is often undervalued. But let me assure you, it’s not lazy work.

So again, thanks to the RMWB employees for feeding into and carrying out the vision of yesterday, today and tomorrow. As a Council, we all may not agree with where we’re going all the time, but the employees do everything with patience, drive and excellence. That’s something we all should strive towards.

Tyran Ault is a RMWB Councillor for Ward 1, and has submitted an open letter to the public as part of Connect Weekly’s Connecting Council feature. On behalf of the Mayor and Council, letters will be published on a weekly basis. Councillor Ault can be reached by email at tyran.ault@rmwb.ca or by phone at 780-215-4555.