Former mayor, former businessman enters council race

A three-term former mayor of Weyburn and two-term councillor, Debra Button, has put her name in to run for Weyburn city council, along with former businessman John Lawrence, a first-time candidate.

They join candidates Dana Pretzer, Laura Morrissette and incumbents Mel Van Betuw, Jeff Richards and Dick Michel who have declared for council so far. Councillors Jeff Chessall and Winston Bailey have said they will not be running for election again.

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Button said she has had a lot of encouragement from people to run for council again, and she thought about this idea for a long time before finally deciding that she could put her name in once more.

With her full-time job for the Saskatchewan Health Authority, based out of the Weyburn General Hospital, she felt she could not make the time commitment necessary to run for mayor again, but would be able to put in the time to be a councillor.

Button admits she has missed being on council, and is hopeful the voters will give her a mandate to be back on again.

“You get busy with meetings and committees, and all of a sudden you’re not. I always immersed myself in that,” she said, noting she told herself she would not be the “official opposition” to council, but she has kept close tabs on what they’ve been doing since she lost the mayoral race to Marcel Roy.

Asked if there are any areas of city government she would like to have input on, she replied, “I love all of it, and I was excited to be a part of it. I’m hoping to bring my experience back to the table if the electorate sees fit to elect me.”

Button said the lack of any women on the current council was not a factor in leading her to run, but did comment that having diversity on council is always better for the different points of view that can come forward if women are part of the group.

“It didn’t factor into whether I would run or not. I believe that people should vote for the best person for the job. There are a lot of good women out there who have the drive and passion for the city,” she said, adding, “I was disappointed that there were no women on council last election, only because that diversity would be good to have.”

She did not express any kind of preference for what areas of the council administration she would like to be involved with if she’s elected, and said wherever the mayor would like her to serve will be fine with her

“I will always represent Weyburn professionally. I think I’ve proven through my time on council,” said Button. “I truly do love this community.”

For his part, Lawrence said he has thought about running before, but this is the first occasion he’s had the time available to put his name in the ring to be a city councillor, as he is now semi-retired. His current employment is with Elections Saskatchewan, as a supervisory returning officer, and as a bus driver for the Holy Family School Division.

He feels his experiences as a businessman and from working for Canada’s Diplomatic Foreign Service would serve him well in being a councillor.

Born and raised in Weyburn, he was the owner and manager of a financial services business in Weyburn for 23 years, and earlier in his life, he served in the Canadian Armed Forces for three years and then served seven years working for Foreign Affairs, living in a number of locations including West Germany, Santiago, Chile, Copenhagen and Algiers as a few examples.

“Diverse experience would be an asset. Experience gained from living in different cultures would bring a global perspective, and experience from working in different disciplines will be beneficial,” he said.

“I was always brought up to give back to the community, and I would like to give back as much as I can,” Lawrence added.

Many things have changed in the city and in how it operates, he noted, and for council, “you need someone who has had experience with all kinds of change. Living overseas, you saw change. It’s recognizing what’s going to be good for the citizens of the city, and how to weed out the good and the bad.”

In one of his roles, he served with the Weyburn Housing Authority for 19 years, and said the contrast of how one approaches that position with how one runs a business was good training for someone wanting to serve on city council.

“In a business, you made decisions for the right financial reasons, but with housing, you had to have humanity in considering people’s circumstances,” said Lawrence. “There was a lot of collaboration you had to have between governments.”

He is encouraged at the building going on for a new school and recreation-culture centre, and now a site for a new hospital, and said, “We need to build on the excitement these entities will bring to the city. I think we need to take the opportunity that new projects will attract people to the city and attract new businesses here too.”