YORKTON – In April long-time Yorkton City Councillor Randy Goulden was elected the new president of the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association.
Delegates to the recent SUMA convention elected Goulden over Shaunavon Mayor Kyle Bennett.
“It’s a little overwhelming to get all the support that I did,” Goulden told Yorkton This Week after she had returned from the convention.
Goulden said it was also gratifying that so many people she had made connections with over her 20-years on the SUMA board supported her election bid.
Yorkton Mayor Mitch Hippsley said it was great to see a local councillor get the top job with SUMA.
“We’re extremely excited and happy for her,” he said.
Hippsley said the real winner is Saskatchewan.
“She’s going to be excellent for the province. Because she knows small towns,” he said, adding that will make her a fine advocate for communities across Saskatchewan. “It’s huge for the province of Saskatchewan to have her on board.”
Goulden had been acting as interim president of SUMA since the resignation of Rodger Hayward after just a year in the role.
Hayward, mayor of Naicam, departed as president in February after accepting a promotion at United Agri Products Canada Inc., his regular employer. Hayward had defeated incumbent Gordon Barnhart during the 2021 SUMA election.
Goulden had been interim president in 2016 for a short time as well, but did not seek the top spot then.
“The first time I wasn’t ready,” she said, adding that this time she knew “from the bottom of my heart” that she “was ready” to take on the top role.
“I have the time, the energy, to take on this role.”
While Goulden said she is not the sole voice for SUMA, with an active board to support her, she will be the face of SUMA as it deals with a number of key issues.
From the outset Goulden said it will be about creating a team atmosphere.
“It’s about cooperation and collaboration with our members and with our partners,” she said.
Goulden said SUMA will also be strongly advocating to be part of discussions when the senior levels of government, national and provincial, talk about issues and policies which impact municipalities.
“We need a seat at the table with other levels of government,” she said.
As for specific issues, there are a number which were discussed over the convention, said Goulden.
For example, she said municipalities are finding they have a role to play in the area of mental health and addictions in their communities.
“Health has never been a municipal responsibility,” she noted, adding that is the role of the federal and provincial governments, but the area of mental health and addictions is being felt at the community level. “I heard that loud and clear it’s an issue happening in our communities.”
There were also concerns about provincial revenue sharing, which is tied to provincial sales tax and as a result declined last year. It’s a decline in funding which will affect what municipalities can do.
Goulden said SUMA has asked the province “to freeze” the transfers in the budget,” but added “we didn’t see that.”
There was also general concern from municipalities of all size regarding the impact on a new RCMP contract which will significantly increase annual policing costs, and immediately hits municipalities with a hefty payout for back pay.
“RCMP costs are absolutely a concern . . . We’re hearing it from all our members,” said Goulden.
Goulden was first elected to Yorkton Council in 1997, and has sat since except for one three-year hiatus. She has been active in leadership roles with SUMA for years. She has been on the SUMA board for two decades and has been a representative with Federation of Canadian Municipalities.