Close to 200 people turned out for an All-Candidates Forum Tuesday night in Altona.
The event, hosted by the Altona and District Chamber of Commerce, was organized to give voters a chance to hear from the candidates running for town council in Altona.
Six council seats are up for grabs in this election with three candidates running for re-election and six newcomers.
Al Friesen was elected as mayor by acclamation.
Curt Letkeman said, if elected, he'd like to ensure that businesses in Altona thrive, but he is also looking for opportunities to do things more efficiently.
The CFO of Friesens Corporation is comfortable working with big financial numbers and is familiar with the concept of governance, having served 20 years on the Access Credit Union board of directors, which he currently chairs.
"Being chair of the board of a $2.5 billion organization with people from different communities and backgrounds has instilled in me the need to be able to work together with others who have a different perspective. My hope is to be able to serve the citizens of Altona ... an I believe my experience on various boards and in the community will help town council."
Harv Schroeder was given some advice when he decided to let his name stand for town council. If he was going to get into local politics, he needed to make himself available and listen to the people.
Schroeder has taken that sage advice to heart while on the campaign trail stopping in at homes and businesses and getting a sense of how local residents want to see the town move forward.
While some of the candidates have a business background, Schroeder has a unique knowledge of Altona's infrastructure after having worked in the town's public works department for 30 years.
During that time he has seen a lot of changes in the community and has worked under five different mayors.
"Because of my experience in working for this community I understand the infrastructure and believe that I would be an asset in making positive decisions on your behalf at the council table," he told the audience.
Veteran councillor Terry Wiebe is running for re-election and is hoping voters will send him back to council for another term.
One of the questions raised at Tuesday's forum pertained to Altona's economic growth and the role that town council should play in that process.
Wiebe said one issue that could stall future economic growth is connected to the town's industrial park.
"Right now we only have about six industrial lots available. That becomes a huge challenge. All it takes is for a couple of businesses to purchase those last six lots and then there would be nothing available. For a community that wants to grow we have to have room for businesses to set up shop."
John H. Falk feels town council can play a direct role in Altona's economic growth.
Falk would like council to encourage economic development by helping existing businesses to grow as well as bringing new businesses into town.
"This may include some tax relief or some other incentives that make it attractive to either expand an existing business or to get new businesses to locate in Altona."
Falk also believes Altona should continue to work together with Rhineland Municipality to create additional opportunities for economic growth.
On the issue of growing Altona's economy, Jordan Siemens suggested town council explore some new ideas when it comes to encouraging more business startups.
"One of the things I'd like to see council look at is the idea of tax increment financing so that if you expand your business and the value of that property goes up the town will not increase your taxes accordingly for a set period of time."
Siemens also suggested the town needs to create room for industrial development.
"I think industrial jobs will be easier to create in Altona compared to retail jobs, and I think that will be key to moving forward."
Incumbent councillor Donna Rosling-Wolters fielded a question on the shortage of child care spaces in Altona and what town council is doing about it.
She says council has looked at the issue and considered things like providing space for a day care operation or offering some tax incentives to help someone start up a day care.
Rosling-Wolters said, based on their study of the issue, the lack of day care spaces in town is connected to another problem area.
"One of the bigger issues is the lack of available day care professionals, and that is one of the big challenges that we're seeing. Town council can always encourage people to acquire their licenses and hopefully that would lead to some job opportunities and some available spaces."
Ernie Buhler said Altona is moving in the right direction when it comes to economic growth, especially with the creation of the a new group called Supporting Entrepreneurs through Economic Development, also known as S.E.E.D
"I think the big thing is businesses getting jobs here. I think the people will follow if we have the jobs. I think S.E.E.D. is probably one of the most encouraging things I've seen in Altona since I moved here and I think it has great potential when you get the entrepreneurs themselves involved rather than elected people."
Joel Pankewich was asked to share his thoughts about the future expansion of Altona's walking trail.
A question was raised as to town council's role in eventually building a paved walking path that surrounds the entire town.
Pankewich said the walking trail is an attractive feature of Altona and it promotes healthy living.
"I think, however, you have to take a hard look at how much something like that is going to cost, because it would involve taxpayer money. If we can fundraise or if we can get small business involved somehow then I'm all for it, but it would definitely have to check out financially.
Meanwhile, incumbent councillor Glen Robinson outlined a number of health issues that need to be high on the priority list for the next members of council.
He currently chairs the local health board committee and feels there are some outstanding health issues that Altona needs to address.
"I think it's very important to the community that we keep our hospital. We need to ensure that we have an emergency room and we need to ensure that we keep our clinic and that we actively recruit more doctors."
Voters will make their choice on October 24.