After 27 years in municipal politics - 12 as Reeve for the Municipality of Morris - Ralph Groening will not be letting his name stand for re-election next month.
"This has been a really difficult decision for me and my partner. There was lots of discussion, but there does come a time in a person's life, and this has been a minor career for me, and the decision that we've made is that I will choose to step aside and give the opportunity to lead the R.M. of Morris to someone else," explained Groening.
Looking back on the nearly three decades he has spent in municipal politics, Groening says he has no regrets.
"I've enjoyed not all of it, but I've enjoyed most of it. It's been a great experience and education," he said. "It's a servant role. We serve and we work to improve the quality of life and to provide services to residents, and that's really gratifying to have done that. We've achieved not everything that we would have liked to, but we have achieved and I think we've helped to progress the R.M. of Morris."
One of those achievements, noted Groening, is the Municipality's aggressive approach to providing clean, potable water. As of right now, Groening estimates about 98 per cent of homes and businesses in the R.M. have access to a supply of good, clean water. He notes, a lot of that is also due to the work that's been undertaken by the Pembina Valley Water Co-op over the years.
Additionally, Groening says the Municipality partnered with Valley Fiber to provide high-speed internet to about three-quarters of residents and businesses so far.
A personal highlight, noted Groening, was his time spent on the Board of Directors for the Association of Manitoba Municipalities, eventually serving time as President of the lobby group.
"All of the wonderful people of AMM, and having the opportunity to get to know Cabinet ministers in both the previous government and this one. So many wonderful connections," he said. "That certainly has given me a perspective that allows me to more effectively serve the residents here in the R.M. of Morris."
As for how he'll fill his new-found free time after October's municipal election, Groening expects his schedule will allow for more travel opportunities. He also plans to continue serving on a few local committees. There's the possibility of another project that Groening is toying with.
"I used to joke about writing a book about the experiences. I've kept journals over the last ten/fifteen years, I have about thirty-five journal books, so there's a lot of record of stuff," he said. "My most interesting and unique, and I don't know how many other reeves had the responsibility of managing a cemetery, and that's been something that I've done for most of my years on Council and that's provided me with another perspective of serving in the community."