On Thursday, September 23, Tina Cresswell was declared the winner of the by-election to fill the seat on Maple Creek Town Council vacated by Corrine Collura. She got 357 votes; her by-election rival, Linda Cuell, got 174 votes. Cresswell will be sworn in at the next Town Council meeting on Tuesday, September 28. Here Cresswell speaks about how much she is looking forward to joining the Council table after a five-year absence.
Talk. Listen. Talk. Listen. Eventually, move to a consensus.
It is an approach to problem-solving that Tina Cresswell believes in after her experience in the Northwest Territories.
These may be tough times in Maple Creek, with concern over finances, high taxes, the cost of building a new swimming pool, and the ever-present menace of COVID-19, but Cresswell is confident solutions can be found around a table.
It helps, of course, that she is an unabashed “optimist” – a self-description she used at the September 13 “meet the candidates” forum at the Elk’s Hall and is likely to use whenever asked about the future.
“I am a Pollyanna by nature,” she says, employing a byword for someone with an unfailingly upbeat outlook, like the title character in the 1913 and 1915 Pollyanna books by American author Eleanor H. Porter.
“Grace and optimism. Those are my words. I am not afraid of hard work and I can problem-solve with the best of them, but I am an optimist.
“I believe that we can sit down at a table and thrash out a solution, as long as we each listen to everybody else and we each give everybody else the leeway to express themselves.
“Nobody steps on anybody else, we all talk, and then we listen, then we talk, then we listen, and eventually we move to a consensus.”
In the Northwest Territories, Cresswell did communications and media training for politicians, and learned a lot about decision-making and consensus building in a culturally diverse environment.
“In the Northwest Territories, of course, they govern by consensus. They don’t have political parties at the territorial level. I learned a lot about consensus there. I learned a lot about community and thinking for the greater good, and preserving the whole, rather than the parts of the whole. It was a very good experience for me”.
Cresswell’s by-election success comes amid anger and frustration in the business community over an increase in mill rate factors that led to tax hikes of up to 65 per cent.
“I am glad to be representing business because I think business is the cornerstone of the town and they need to have voices at the table,” says Cresswell, who runs The Daily Grind in Jasper Street. “Not just one voice or two voices, but voices at the table.
“I look forward to working with the rest of the team and hope that we can do some good things to mitigate past mistakes and press forward into the future with enthusiasm and optimism.”
Cresswell says she is not one for dwelling on the past.
“I draw a line under what has happened and I move forward. Once you’ve learned your lessons, draw the line. Don’t talk about what’s behind you, talk about what’s in front of you.
“I find that makes for a better, more productive team. Yes, we have to learn our lessons and not make the same errors again, but we have to stop dwelling on the past and start looking at where we sit now and where we need to go.”
Cresswell refers to an impromptu question asked at the candidates forum: “What is your vision for Maple Creek in 2025?”
“I thought that was a very good question because that is three years hence and it is about enough time to recover from this and COVID-19 and all those other things that we need to recover from. I think it’s good to have that kind of vision. I don’t think you can predict what’s going to happen in 10 years, but three years is a good measure.”
At the forum, Cresswell said Maple Creek needed to look to the future and the challenges and opportunities it holds.
“My vision of Maple Creek in 2025 is children playing safely under the street lights, while neighbours talk and share a story or two and wave at the world. We have the potential to do that. We just have to draw the line and get on with the job.”
It was a poetic, romantic vision harking back to a time when she worked in substance abuse prevention in Prince George, British Columbia, in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
“We worked with the police and we did a lot of visioning and a lot of what’s most important to us in our community. To me family, friends, neighbours, and community have always been the important thing.”
Cresswell alludes to Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), an American painter and illustrator famous for the cover illustrations of everyday life he created for The Saturday Evening Post magazine over nearly five decades.
She says Rockwell’s illustrations reflect the same aspects of American culture – family, friends, neighbours, and community.
“I am old enough to have seen the illustrations on the cover of the Post,” she adds. “Sure, what he emphasizes is an ideal, but it’s something to shoot for, to strive for.
“We need visions to strive for. If we just put one foot in front of the other and crisis-manage, we never know where we are going. We have to know where we are going. And so that’s a good way for me to make a vision of where we are going, where I want to see us. There is nothing better than a summer evening, with kids playing under the street-lamps and parents and neighbours talking … or a barbecue on a block. We used to do those things We don’t do that anymore because of COVID. We have to get back to that.”
Cresswell, who served on Council for seven years between 2009 and 2016, says she is under no illusions about the tasks ahead.
“I think there is a lot of hard work ahead, but I am hopeful, I always like a challenge. I’m up for it. I am ready to start work today.”