After a total of seven terms on Medicine Hat city council, Julie Friesen will depart from her position on Nov. 1.
Friesen's political career began in 1989 when she was first elected to council. After a short period away from the council table, she was re-elected in 1998 and served until 2010, when she chose to run for mayor. She was narrowly defeated in the mayoral race and returned to council in the 2013 election, where she has served since.
"It's such an incredible honour to be elected to serve on behalf of the people of Medicine Hat," Friesen told the News. "I was and continue to be humbled by the support."
She admits the role was sometimes challenging, but feels proud of the legacy she left behind.
"Everybody doesn't agree with everybody else all the time - and that's healthy. I always welcomed the ability to understand such complexity ... You need to hear the different ideas, thoughts, rationale and perspectives other people bring to really put together a total picture and do the very best you can on behalf of the folks you serve."
When reflecting on her time in office, Friesen is proud of all she accomplished, especially her part in promoting a good quality of life for Hatters.
"During the time I was there, we either built, or made a lot stronger, a number of community facilities," Friesen said. She cites her involvement in the federal designation of Medalta as an historic site and regional tourism icon, building the new Medicine Hat police station, as well as the construction of the Esplanade, Co-op Place and the Family Leisure Centre. As chair of the public services committee, she contributed to the extension of city trails and bike paths and advocated for infrastructure improvements and facility maintenance throughout the community. She feels her part in economic and financial development also made a difference to constituents.
"Without cultural, recreational, social (and other) quality of life offerings, we would not have a strong economic future. They go hand in hand. In order to attract or retain new business of any kind or size, people want, not only to have jobs, but to have jobs in a place where they love to live, their children have a strong future and their families are happy," Friesen said.
Friesen's message to the incoming council is to work hard for the people of Medicine Hat, but enjoy the rewards of that work.
"I can't even begin to describe how rewarding this kind of work is. It comes with lots of challenges. It comes with lots of joys and sometimes sorrow. It's just an incredible opportunity to learn and consider - sometimes agonize - over decisions that you believe so strongly (about) on behalf of the community. You have to really love the community and love this city and not have a single-agenda focus in order to really serve ... We were just the representatives, it's all about the people of Medicine Hat."
Friesen's not certain what the future holds for her, but hopes to still be involved in some form of community leadership. She is particularly interested in consulting and would be willing to meet with and mentor incoming councillors, if invited.
"I just wanted to extend my sincere best wishes to the two incumbents, the council members and the new mayor. They have an exciting future ahead of them... Many of us who have been before, I'm sure, will be willing to assist in any way we can, if they want (us) to.
"My heart will always be with the community."
KENDALL KING, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News