By Kris Ontong
At the Annual General Meeting of the Steinbach Chamber of Commerce on September 24, Mayor Earl Funk listed his Mentorship Program as one of the highlights of his first year of being elected. Launched in the second quarter of 2019, the Mayor’s Mentorship Program aims to raise awareness of the workings of city government and the role of the city council. As well, it has the intent of encouraging residents to become more involved in the local governance of Manitoba’s third largest city, a forty-five minute drive southeast of Winnipeg and home to roughly 2,000 Filipino newcomers. For the program’s inaugural run, this writer happened to be the sole participant or mentee.
The first session of the program was to attend a meeting of the Steinbach City Council. This local governing body consists of the Mayor and his six councilors, namely Deputy Mayor Michael Zwaagstra, Bill Hiebert, Jack Hiebert, Susan Penner, Damian Penner and Jac Siemens. Regular Council meetings are held at City Hall on the first and third Tuesday of each month at 7:30 pm. The event is open to the public, with past meetings archived on the City Council’s YouTube channel at:
There was a brief meet-and-greet with the Mayor at the lobby before proceeding to the Council Chamber for the meeting. Also in attendance were City Manager Troy Warkentin and reporters from local media such as The Carillon newspaper and Golden West Radio. The ball started rolling when the Mayor called the meeting to order and declared the session open. Afterward, he asked the council for a motion to adopt the agenda and someone to second it. The rest of the meeting then followed the sequence outlined in the agenda.
During the meeting, each Council member was guided by a document called the Agenda Package, which contains the meeting agenda, financial reports, and other references for the matters to be discussed. They typically receive this document on Thursday of the previous week to give them time to review and prepare whatever questions or concerns they might want to raise at the meeting proper. The June 18 Council meeting attended by this mentee featured the launch of WhySteinbach.com, which aims to complement the city website and boost investor interest. It showcases Steinbach’s many amenities, infrastructure and significant developments.
The second session was more of an informal chat about the remuneration for being a City Council member and the other official functions that they attend. In May of 2017 it was reported by Steinbach Online that a city councilor’s salary was adjusted to $18,000 annually, while the Mayor’s was bumped to $44,000 per year. The session wound down with a preview of the actual Agenda Package which will be viewed in closer detail on the third and final session of the program.
On August 19, the Mayor’s residence was the venue for the third and final session of the program. As planned, Mayor Funk went through the contents of the Agenda Package and explained the importance of each section. A significant portion of the discussion centered on the financial reports which contained the expenses regularly incurred by the city. The mentee remarked how illuminating it would be for fellow Steinbach residents to see where their tax dollars go. Before the session ended, Mayor Funk acknowledged the increasing diversity of Steinbach to be a factor in the Mentorship Program. He also expressed how leaving a legacy is very important to him.
“I would really love to see the new cultures that are coming in and choosing Steinbach as their home to be represented in City Hall and in our government. My goal is to pass on knowledge and leave it with the next generation coming up, to share where we’ve been and how we got there.”
The Mayor’s Mentorship Program is expected to re-open sometime in the last quarter of the year. Announcements about the actual date will be posted either on the website of Eastman Immigrant Services or the City of Steinbach website.