Interview with Heather Colberg a very strong woman, who is the Mayor of Drumheller, Alberta with Blaine Schlechter.
Thank you for taking the time to chat with me. So it’s been about a year since you became the Mayor of Drumheller, how has the year been for you?
It’s been absolutely fabulous; I’ve got the best job in the valley. It’s been really, really good. It’s obviously lots of learning however it’s just been extremely rewarding. I find that you’re just really able to look at ways to try and advance your community, and that’s what it’s all about.
Any one particular highlight from the past year that stands out to you as a favourite? Or anything that surprised you about the job?
It’s just better then I imagined, I think that’s the big thing for me. You go into something like this just kind of watching from the sidelines, not really sure exactly what goes on in the inside, however I find it’s better than I had imagined. You’re able to do a lot more than people say your able to do, at least that’s the impression I got. As far as highlights, we got an economic task force going, which was incredible. We had 45 people step up and want to help, and now we’ve already put quite a few of the things in place and were working at some of the bigger ones, like incentives. We are striving to help our present businesses and create new business for our town to get our economy going. This in turn will; fill our houses, fill our buildings. It all comes down to the economy and every community is in the same boat. Were all striving to get that business into town that’ll help however we are also trying to encourage growth within. They say 80% of the growth comes from the businesses you have so were just trying to figure out ways to encourage them as well.
It doesn’t really matter the size of the community, big or small, everyone kind of has similar struggles don’t they?
Absolutely. Nobody’s immune to it.
As a born and raised Drumheller local, did you imagine yourself growing up to become Mayor someday?
No (laughs). No…honest to God I never had any interest in politics whatsoever. I was always in private business. I loved what I did and I loved the ability to be able to make changes and do things quickly, but politics just never really intrigued me. Last election I kind of slithered under it and then this one come along and I had enough people ask me and so I finally decided to do some research actually, and that is what I did. I went and visited eight Mayors throughout Alberta and did some homework and thought I would see if I actually want to do this. I think that was the smartest thing I ever did because you got different perspectives. A lot of the Mayors were in for a long time, some were shorter, but you just really got a different insight and at the end of the day, the reality is that it’s a business and that’s what I grew up with. I grew up with a family business of 500 people; you had money come in, you had money go out, you had to make it work.
That’s true in the simplest form. Its budgeting, its promotions, sales, marketing, everything. Was there one particular thing that made you decide to just go for it?
Family. My family was very supportive. They felt that I could help the community and I knew as long as I had their support that I could do anything. You sacrifice a lot of family time. Although my kids are grown up, you still sacrifice time with them, especially my husband. But I have so much support from my family, that’s what gives me the drive to keep doing this. I didn’t go into this having a cause or a mission, or anything that said ‘I had to go do this because I want to fix X or Y’. I just felt that I’ve been involved in the community from so many different angles for so long that I just thought that this is the next step.
It lets you come into this with an open mind, that’s great. As the first female mayor of Drumheller, it kind of puts you in a role model status. Do you have any advice for young females who are thinking of getting into politics?
Even the day I got elected I was asked that question. I don’t believe that whether it’s male or female, I believe that it’s ‘are you ready for the job’ and ‘are you the right person.’ As a female, our styles are obviously different than a males, but at the end of the day as long as you feel you can take on the responsibility…because it is a big responsibility – your looking after a community of 8,000 people and you’ve got to make sure that all the decisions you make are in the best interest of the community. So as a female, I think females should get more involved in everything, not just politics. We have a different view of things than our male counterparts, but at the end of the day it’s not about the gender, it’s about just doing the best job you can possible do.
That’s right, I completely agree. Now Drumheller is obviously known for its dinosaur history, but what is one thing that might surprise people about Drumheller?
We have such a deep coal mining history that a lot of people don’t know about. Like you said, when you say Drumheller, even in Ottawa, people say ‘oh…the dinosaurs’. Yes, but we have coal mining history and I think that would be something that people don’t really know about us. We have this amazing Atlas Coal Mine out there. We also really have deep arts and culture community that people don’t really see and we’ve got to be better about promoting. We have a lot of artists living within our community.
I had the pleasure of spending about three weeks filming out in Drumheller this winter and I learned a lot about the Town and there are a lot of things that people need to check out that they might not know about.
We have a lot to offer. We have our East Coulee’s Festival, we have our Wayne stock, and we have a lot of musicians in the valley as well. It’s incredible how many musicians we have and there is just a lot of arts and culture actually going on in the valley and even talking to you now it makes me say that we need to go a whole new level and promote that even more.
The one thing that struck me in the film industry was how different background and options you can provide to film and television in the area.
That’s the amazing thing about the valley, when you come down those hills you go into a whole different world. As locals, we don’t realize how unbelievably beautiful it is here, because we see it every day. But when you talk to someone that comes in and they just are in awe of the hills. Ironically, since I’ve become Mayor I do look at the community completely different because unfortunately I now see everything that we need to fix versus before I saw everything with rose colored glasses. I love what it is.
What does 2019 look like for Drumheller?
I think the biggest thing is we want to advance our community as far as economically. We’re working hard on beautification and we just want to be a really open and welcoming community. Our vision is to be the friendliest, cleanest, most sought after community in Alberta and so it’s continually working towards that mission.
You are definitely on the right pace for that. One more question for you. Being from Drumheller yourself…do you have a favourite dinosaur and if so what is it?
I think it has to be the T-Rex. I know it’s just cliché but it’s the big dinosaur.
Good pick! It’s been great chatting with you Heather, thank you so much.
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