A Few Minutes With...Nolan Crouse

St. Albert Mayor Nolan Crouse goes above and beyond his duties, sparing plenty of his free time to make St. Albert one of the best places to live in Canada...

BY EMIL TIEDEMANN

IT'S easy to see that Nolan Crouse loves his city. It's written all over his Facebook page, which seems to be crowded with statuses congratulating local high school grads, and of folks thanking him for making an appearance at any number of events, or posts alerting residents of recent criminal activity...an infrequency, btw, in the city of St. Albert.

St. Albert Mayor Nolan Crouse was named Coach of the Year
by Hockey Alberta (1990), the Slave Lake Region (1991), and
Alberta Major Bantam (1996 and 1999). 
There's even photographs of things such as graffiti, in which Crouse proposes "let's find ways to rid ourselves of graffiti and report all this garbage." Clearly, Crouse is dedicated to making St. Albert a great place to live, work, or simply visit. In fact, that's his job!

But Crouse, as I soon discovered, is more than just the Mayor of Edmonton's closest neighbour. He's an advocate, a campaigner, a spokesman for St. Albert, itself a bustling, self-sustaining community of more than 60,000 people. This I could tell when I spoke with him about it, as well as himself.

Crouse, who was actually born in Viking, Alberta, has had a storied resume, to say the least, perhaps highlighted with turns as GM of companies like Proctor & Gamble, Alberta Energy, West Fraser Timber, and Sunchild Forest Products, the latter of which he owned. The husband and father of three is even a certified auctioneer, trained as a chemical technologist, and was heavily involved in community sports throughout the province for decades now, including President of the Grande Prairie Indoor Ice Society (1986-1990), head coach of the St. Albert Merchants hockey team (1991-94), and GM of the Alberta Junior Hockey League (1999-2004).

In fact, Crouse has been coaching hockey, soccer, and baseball outfits since 1973, right up until 2004, when he decided to get into municipal politics. Crouse, who first moved to St. Albert in 1991, ran and was elected to that city's Council in '04, and then became Mayor three years later. In October 2010 he began his second term.

Crouse recently took some time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions for 'I Heart Edmonton'....

Part I:

IE/ What brought you to St. Albert and what made you stay?

NC/ My wife [Gwen] and I were living in Slave Lake at the time when we drove in to St. Albert one time, and my wife said, 'If we ever move away from Slave Lake, this is where I wanna live.' We remembered that a year later when I was transferred by Alberta Energy Company; at the time I was managing the pulp mill in Slave Lake, and they asked me to transfer to Edmonton and work out of their Edmonton office. So I transferred work to Edmonton and we moved to St. Albert as per my wife's wishes. 


As far as what made me stay...we began to put roots in the ground here; all three of our kids were heading into school, and then suddenly found it to be the most wonderful family community we could've imagined. So, as a result, we had no interest in ever moving, and still don't. We'll never move from here. 


St. Albert City Council congregates at St. Albert Place. 
IE/ What do you think is the general consensus of St. Albert citizens with the idea of Edmonton and your city merging to form one larger metropolis? 

NC/ I think you'd find that 99.9% of the population would view the autonomy to be more important than the combined services. You can combine services and ultimately what you'd do is, because of the size of Edmonton, you'd basically follow Edmonton's policy on anything and everything; and what we believe is that bigger is not better, and that smaller allows autonomy. So whether it's Spruce Grove or Leduc or St. Albert or Sherwood Park, that autonomy allows you to manage some of the local things better than, say a larger government, and that's proven itself across Canada. Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, all the amalgamations that have occurred--most in the last 20 or 30 years--have not been that successful, in terms of what they were expecting it to be. So we have no interest in that, and neither does Edmonton. 

IE/ Do you think there will be continued infrastructure growth in closing the visual gap between our two cities? 

NC/ I think that you will see a different set of infrastructure in St. Albert, compared to Edmonton, because of the Anthony Henday divide. We have certain building standards, we have certain road standards, and what not, and you will see a difference. And we have a different tax structure and different maintenance standards. When you're in St. Albert you will see a difference, whether it's trees or cleanliness or sidewalks or facilities; we are paying higher taxes, and with higher taxes come a level of service that is greater than Edmonton's level of service. Edmonton has very good service in many factors, but what I'm saying is...to answer your question...our infrastructure is different. 


"We [have] no interest in ever moving...we'll never move from here."
-Nolan Crouse

IE/ I understand that you have been very involved in various sports for many years now. Why do you think it's important to have sports in a community?

NC/ Any kind of activity, whether it's recreation or whether it's cultural, whether it's arts or whether it's sports, you have to have a variety of those activities because you have a variety of interests in humans. We have 60,000 people, so you have a variety of interests straight from cricket to painting, from bird watching to canoeing; so what you must be able to do is provide for that diversity, and if you can provide for a wide diversity, then you have satisfied residents. And that's what we have, is that we have a high satisfaction level with our community, and because of the recreation, because of sports, because of the culture...you can go to a movie, or you can go to a play, or you can go to a hockey game, and you can go painting, and you can go bird watching, you can go canoeing, and you can go hiking...we cover it all. 

IE/ What are you most proud of accomplishing during your terms as Mayor of St. Albert?

NC/ I think raising the standards of excellence in everything we do. We have a very good community that had excellent amenities, excellent services, and what we've done is raise that bar to make sure that the quality is at a higher level, that the cleanliness and aesthetics are at a higher level. It doesn't matter whether it's public transit or dead trees or live trees, boulevards or grass maintenance...we've raised the bar in every aspect, and that's what I'm most proud of. 

Crouse's favourite movie is Burt
Reynolds' 'Smokey and the Bandit' (1977).
IE/ What's some of the issues you're looking most forward to tackling in the future?

NC/ I think that we're always faced with having to make sure that we don't have too significant a rising in our crime rate. Our crime rate is very low, but I'm very sensitive to make sure it's kept in check, because the larger you get as a city, the more chance you have of potential problems...whether it's robberies or whether it's vandalism...doesn't matter what it is. So I think maintaining the safe community atmosphere as you grow larger is the biggest challenge we'll have. 



Part II:

IE/ What is your favourite movie of all-time? 

NC/ Smokey & the Bandit.

IE/ Best book you ever read?

NC/ Let's see. My goodness, um...probably The Bible.

IE/ Best concert you ever attended?

NC/ Elton John [in Edmonton].

IE/ TV show you don't miss? 

NC/ I don't watch TV, but the TV that I do watch would be Hockey Night in Canada.

IE/ If you could trade places with any person for one day, who would you choose? 


NC/ You know something, it would probably be an actor. Probably a Clint Eastwood.

Thanks, Nolan!

Below is Mayor Nolan Crouse's 2011 State of the City.

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