There is no denying the love mayoral candidate Jackie Clayton has for Grande Prairie.
By serving the past six and a half months as the city’s interim mayor, the love was rekindled.
“It ignited the fire in me for how much I love this community,” Clayton said. “The last 16 months have been extremely hard on people, and I think on some level, the wind was taken out of people’s sails.
“Being at city hall full-time just gave me that inspiration. It just pushed me to want to be there on a more regular basis.”
The candidate decided to run for mayor a few months ago but realized there was still a lot of work for council to do.
“My role in this interim piece was just to, sort of, steer the ship and help get the boat to shore in regards to things that were already put in place by council,” Clayton added. “Steering the ship and getting us to shore was my role. But, in the back of my mind was always what can I do? How can I make a difference? What changes would I like to be part of? As the next council is formed, where do I see my role? Putting my name in to be mayor is extremely exciting for me.”
Clayton said the decision was one she had been considering for a while.
“Initially, I had considered running for mayor probably last year,” Clayton said. “I was figuring out what (former mayor Bill Given’s) plans were and if I was going to run or not. Then when Mayor Bill decided not to run, I had some conversations with him (about) what the expectations, in his opinion, were and how the transition would be for somebody who had been doing the councillor position part-time into a full-time position.”
Clayton moved to GP with her husband in 1999, with a plan to stay for five years and has been here ever since.
Grande Prairie is the birthplace of her two boys, 16 and 13, and she has owned a small business in town for 18 years.
“I have been happy to be part of the community,” Clayton said. “In Grande Prairie, I find you move here for work, but you stay because of the people.”
Clayton said she remembers how welcoming people were when she and her husband arrived, encouraging them to get involved in various things, from sports to committees to fundraisers.
“If (people) see you have a passion for this city and you are willing to support the city by volunteering and investing time into the city, they are very inclusive,” Clayton said, adding people have a genuine desire to see a person succeed.
Clayton served the community with non-profits like the hospital and community foundations, committees like Communities in Bloom and the Arctic Winter Games. In addition, she served as president of the Grande Prairie and District Chamber of Commerce and was on the Board of Governors at GPRC.
She acknowledged her public service is due, in large part to her parents, while living in Terrace, B.C. Clayton said they were heavily involved as “serial volunteers,” often bringing her brother and her to participate as well.
“Volunteer work not only introduces you to people but in my opinion, it puts you in a situation where you can sort of lift up the (hood) on a car and see what is making things tick,” Clayton said. “Volunteer work in Grande Prairie gave me an opportunity to see, not only who the leaders were and who the people who were putting things in motion were, but when you sit at a volunteer table, you begin to recognize opportunities and strengths and weaknesses in your community.”
Clayton’s time with the Chamber of Commerce was probably one of the markers in her move to the political arena.
“Now, I feel that it is time for me to take it to the next step,” Clayton said. “What is important to me in this mayoral race is that previous councils and previous mayors have had different priorities. We’ve put to bed many of the past priorities, and now it is about bringing Grande Prairie back to the table. Grande Prairie needs to be reintroduced to people.
“We need to be recognized for the value that we provide to our province and our country. For a while, that wasn’t a priority. Bring the communication back so that we are at the forefront of people’s minds, whether at a provincial table, a federal table, or even an international table. We want to always be considered an option, and for a while, I don’t know if we were always even considered. (We need to) remind the province and the world the value Grande Prairie brings.”