When Dominique Martel took over the position of mayor of Saint-Ignace-de-Stanbridge, she had a steep learning curve. She leaned into it.
Martel was serving on the town council in 2019 when her predecessor, then-mayor Albert Santerre, died of cancer. She was the only one who volunteered to take Santerre’s place.
“I went for it, because I didn’t want the town to have to come under guardianship,” she recalled. “I went to all the trainings, I did a lot of networking, I found my place, but I didn’t really have time to add my own colour to the position, because the pandemic came and everything had to be put on ice. Once public health measures started lightening up again and people were able to live and do what they want again, I wanted to do what I wanted.”
Martel has committed herself to running the town of about 700 people while keeping her full-time job as director of manufacturing at a nearby IBM facility. “It’s not a small job,” she says. “I’m always on the go; I’m a very organized person.” She adds that some skills, like working as part of a team, transfer well from one job to the other.
She was elected to her first full term on Nov. 7. She says some of her biggest priorities are overseeing roadwork and the construction of the municipal garage and pitching in for the Bedford pole resource-sharing initiative.
The Bedford pole encompasses Bedford, Bedford Township, Notre-Dame-de-Stanbridge, Saint-Ignace-de-Stanbridge, Stanbridge East, Pike River, Saint-Armand and Stanbridge Station. “There’s a great partnership between all the members of the pole. We have had the study [commissioned to inform the development of a joint economic action plan] and now the real work can start,” Martel says. “We can’t continue to work in silos anymore; we need to share resources and work together, or the survival of our villages will even be in danger.” Saint-Ignace is already sharing snow removal services with nearby Notre-Dame-de-Stanbridge, but Martel sees the pole as much more than a service-sharing hub.
“We all have different strengths,” she says. “We have a lot of agriculture here; in Notre-Dame-de-Stanbridge they have really strong recreational programming, and in Bedford they have all kinds of services. We need to work together to attract people to maintain the services we have; I feel we can do something to attract more people, make sure there’s something for kids to do. We also have people who come to work here but who find that it’s difficult to find housing. We have a lot of green [agricultural] zones here, and we need to look at how we can [fit in] more housing.”
Martel is also working to get more community members involved in local politics. “When I took over [as mayor], there was no one else,” she recalled. “I have to think of the next generation, how to get more people involved in the community. Now I have a young councillor and more women on council [than in past years], and I like that fact. I didn’t think about town council until I had a problem that needed fixing, but once I came [to a meeting], I never left. I like listening to councillors and working together to put projects on the table. This isn’t just a job – you have a certain power as a councillor. You need to have the town at heart, you need to be passionate, you need to be a good listener and you need to really want to do it.”
Saint-Ignace-de-Stanbridge at a glance:
Population: 676 (2016)
Anglophones as percentage of population: 13.3 per cent
Bilingual status: No (although Martel says in-person services at the town hall can be provided in English when needed)
Land area: 69.43 km3