Q and A with the new mayor of Neepawa



Adrian de Groot says he’s ready to take on the challenge of being Neepawa’s new mayor. Well, after several weeks of campaigning, knocking on doors and talking to voters, he’ll get the chance to prove it. He was officially sworn in on Wednesday to take over the towns’ top job. The Neepawa Banner’s Eoin Devereux recently sat down with the new mayor to discuss the election and what to expect over the next four years.


Banner: Now that we’re a week removed from your victory, what have people been saying to you since election night?

De Groot: “First of all, congratulations from a lot of people who have, unofficially or officially worked on my campaign. Certainly, I’m very appreciative of their confidences and their vote. As well as, you know, going around and talking to people, there’s a real upbeat recognition that, hopefully, you know they feel that they’ve elected the right person. Throughout the campaign, I think there was an expectation of making a difference. That’s what I got out of it and that’s what I heard from people. I think now they’re looking in anticipation and thinking ‘What’s he all about now that [the election] is all over? Is he going to fall back into the same old?’ So, you know it’s been hectic for me. Still going out and shaking hands and listening.”

Banner: You received about 75 per cent of the vote. What do you think drew voters to you?

De Groot: “Well, it’s going back to the people of the community wanting and desiring a different kind of leadership and they spoke to me about that. It’s not something that I said, ‘Okay, this is what I’m going to do.’ It really was a common thread between the electorate and myself. They voluntarily said that to me. That, we needed a change. We needed to make a difference. We need a different type of leadership and that really resonated quite well into some of the issues that perhaps they were talking about. Just the openness or the lack of openness of previous councils and I’m not knocking those councils but that’s a perception that was there. They just weren’t getting some of that communication through. That message came through loud and clear. And, I think had a lot of good people talking. I think I ran an effective campaign. I didn’t start criticizing anyone. I kept it open and went out to a lot of people. Talked to them and went out of my way to sit down with people who had concerns and I want to continue to do that. I think people saw that genuineness and said, ‘you know what? He’s worth giving a try.’” 

Banner: During the election campaign, were there any moments that stood out for you?

De Groot: “I think one of the things, if I go backwards on the campaign trail, actually occurred on election day. At first, I didn’t think; I wanted to make sure that there was someone on the slate of candidates to vote for. That’s where it started. Then, it started getting some momentum. People voluntarily coming forward and saying ‘Can we help in any way?’ People I barely knew. And on the election day, some people, who were kind of a cold shoulder attitude, were warming up. Whether they were convinced or were talking to friends and neighbours and you know, there were a lot of conversations happening. I remember one waitress at a local restaurant coming up to [myself and my wife Sandra] and saying ‘You’re the new mayor.’ You know, it was only 8:30 in the morning on election day, but the conversations that were there convinced her that is was all but official. The other thing that happened was I met a young lady. She was in her mid-20s and she just said to me that she’d never really taken a part in any election before, but now she was excited about the process and wanted to get involved. I said to my wife ‘you know, if that’s the only thing that we’ve accomplish with this. Creating a new awareness in the community. That’s good. We’ve won. Whether I’m the mayor tomorrow or not.’ Being able to accomplish that was something that will stick with me.”

Banner: What do you deem the first order of business as Neepawa’s new mayor?

De Groot: The message that I’m telling our councilors and also our administration and staff at the town office is simply proactive. I want us to be proactive. I want us to become approachable. I want to hear that from our councilors, I want to hear that collectively from our administration. For them to say ‘how can we become proactive?’ Not complaint driven but getting out there and applying what is good for our community in a proactive manner. In a friendly and respectful manner. That’s what it’s all about. Doing that, getting that preparation done. We’re always going to get complaints. You’re going to get people that you’ll never make entirely happy, however, if you can get the majority on your side, then moving forward is so much easier.  I’m going to dedicate, for the next four years, to making sure that there is always open communication. That if someone wants to talk to me, I’m certainly going to do my best to talk to them and to hear what they have to say.”

Banner: Let’s talk about the new council that you will be working with. Have you had the opportunity to meet with everyone or is that still ongoing?

De Groot: “It’s still ongoing but so far, it’s been very positive. Talking to each individual, talking about their background, their likes and dislikes. But most importantly, learning what their vision is. We have some seasoned, experienced individuals coming back to council and I certainly appreciate that. I’ll be able to work with their strengths. I’m a new and different kind of person. I deal with things differently and we’re going to get the chance to work together and I’m going to predict that it’s going to be positive.”

Banner: Final thoughts?

De Groot: There are things that are rising to the top that need addressing fairly quickly. Of course, early on in the new council’s mandate, there will be an orientation period. I’m not going to sit there and say, ‘Okay, let’s make decisions.’ And then have questions coming back to me saying what’s going on? We need to make informed decisions. We need to do our research and that is of primary importance, is to make everyone comfortable in their role. We’re going to immediately look at our procedural and organizational bylaw. Does it need modernization? We want to be proactive. We want to be ahead of the curve. Is there anything that would limit that? Are there things that need to change? One observation is that there is a whole raft of committees that councillors are asked to participate on. We really have to take a look at that and see whether there is a value in doing that. There are certain things, key areas that we need to grow our community and that’s where we need to expend our energy. I know a lot of groups, they like to have council representation there, but maybe there’s another way of communicating the needs and the desires and the requirements, rather than that. It’s about efficiency. There’s only so much time in the day. People, they have jobs, they have things that they need to have some downtime in order to be creative and you can’t be creative if you’re constantly running from one spot to another