By Blackfalds LIFE staff
Anyone who ever sat in on Blackfalds town council meetings saw that Blackfalds Mayor Melodie Stol was almost larger than life but she was always herself and approachable.
Mayor Stol, who announced earlier this month that she’s not seeking re-election, was on council since 1998 and the mayor since 2007. She led Blackfalds through incredible growth and change.
“I always tried to be myself,” she said. “I have a sense of humour that sometimes comes out inappropriately but I’ve heard a lot kind things. You have to be who you are and you can’t take yourself so seriously on council. There are rules and there are procedures and that is to keep that professional decorum and keep everyone focused towards the goals and that’s great. But to bring out the best in other people you also have to be yourself. I hope that is one of the skills I brought to the mayor’s chair. I have a big personality, a big laugh.”
The mayor and council spend a lot of time away from their families and because of that it’s important to enjoy your time on council, said Mayor Stol.
Indeed, Mayor Stol had a knack for making people feel at ease and comfortable because to her they were her neighbours. She recalls an incident where people approached her about an issue and were upset.
“It gets so personal for them you have to be able to roll with that a bit. They were very stiff and almost aggressive because they were uncomfortable even talking to me at first and after 15 minutes they just realized I was just another neighbor and another person in Blackfalds. When they got to that they were able to explain their issue from their heart and they realized the organization of the Town of Blackfalds was willing to work with them and make their issue better and I know we did. We managed to find a solution for them. People sometimes think that the government or government officials are against them but we really are not. We are just your neighbours. When we are talking to each other, if we remember that, that is when we find positive solutions and a positive direction.”
With so much passion and love for her town, the decision not to run for mayor again was difficult for Mayor Stol.
“Every time there is an election you need to consider all of your options. It’s a four-year commitment now in Alberta. When I first started it was three years so a four-year commitment is a long time. I went and looked at some other options and I pursued a job opportunity and I was offered the position and I accepted it. With that, I then had to consider ‘can you do both?’ and the nature of the position I have taken and the amount of time and attention that the mayor’s position requires, I couldn’t see myself doing both well, to the best that I could and I decided to focus on my career.”
“I have enjoyed every council group that I have worked with,” said Mayor Stol. “The staff have been phenomenal and all of the residents, the people who to try to find solutions and try to make their home a better place, that’s what made the town so successful. I can’t separate what I have done and what we have done. Neither one of us can be successful without the other.”
Mayor Stol leaves a tremendous legacy as she exits town hall. She has worked tirelessly and passionately to help Blackfalds grow and get the needed facilities.
“I was extremely passionate about our schools. While it’s not normally just a municipal concern, a concern of the town council because you do have an entire elected school board l that is responsible for it, I was really passionate about our schools, making sure Blackfalds was always prepared to get those schools, making sure the land dedication was there.
“I have a lot of passion about family and community support services and the work they do,” she added. “The first nine years I was on council I did so much work on the library and was so pleased the library developed into this great centre in our town. In the last 10 years I have been really working on our police committee. I have been on the police committee ever since the RCMP came.
“I had so many passions. That’s one of the great things about being an elected official. You can have so many interests and passions and work on them all. It’s a real opportunity. It’s never just one thing. It’s a pretty dynamic position. I am a passionate and pretty emotional person and a position like this really suited my personality well so I could advance things when the time was right.”
Mayor Stol started on council when she was a young stay-at-home mom.
“My kids were 18 months and five. I was just looking for ways to contribute and be involved in the community and then there was a planning issue that occurred on my block in the spring of that year (1998) so I really got involved in learning about the planning issue. I would go to council meetings and try to understand how this issue would affect me and my home. I really loved going to the council meetings. I loved what they were doing and how they examined the issues.”
Over the years Mayor Stol has had strong support and she appreciates her supporters.
“I thank them so much for their support over the last 19 years. You can’t be successful unless you have people in your corner. My family has always been in my corner. They have really been my rock in this. My kids knew occasionally I had to miss a Christmas concert because there was a budget meeting going on and they knew sometimes my flight schedule was really bizarre and mom wasn’t going to be able to cook supper that night because I had four separate meetings scheduled. My family was my rock in my corner and all my friends, just so many people who were supporting me. I don’t even know how to say thank you adequately because they made such a big difference not only in my life but to the Town of Blackfalds. They may not have been an elected official but their influence in my life made me the elected official I was.”
Undoubtedly, the candidate who becomes mayor this October has a big chair to fill.
“Blackfalds is a pretty dynamic place and it’s a pretty dynamic leadership environment that we have in the town,” said Mayor Stol. “There are a lot of things going on and very little of it is straight forward and easy. There are a lot of complicated things going on. The person that is going to step into this role really needs to know what is happening. I would like every citizen to look at peoples’ platforms and campaign materials and on election day make a thoughtful decision.”
And whether or not Mayor Stol will ever return to the political scene remains uncertain.
“I haven’t really thought about it too much but I do know this, I love politics, I love reading about it and learning about it. I like to figure out how to find solutions or get a policy or a program from point A to point B so I don’t think politics will ever be too far from what I do but right now I am going to focus on this career opportunity that I have and we will see what happens.
Still, some wonder if Mayor Stol will enter a larger political arena in the future.
“That’s not where I’m going quite yet. Don’t think I hadn’t considered it at one point but it’s not where I am going mainly because the local level is so near and dear to my heart. Let me work on my career and maybe I can be involved in other ways like volunteering and helping the community that way.”