Wabasca businessman Jesse Roberts is taking his first crack at elected office, and it’s in the M.D. of Opportunity. He and his wife run three different stores in Wabasca and he has about 25 years experience in starting and running businesses. He figures Opportunity council could use some of that business savvy.
“I want to contribute to Wabasca,” he says. “I live there now. With my knowledge of finance and fiscal responsibility, I could really help.”
Roberts says an effective council has two main aspects – one he calls ‘social’ and the other fiscal. Both are important.
But from what he knows of the current council, Roberts says there are a lot of members who are strong on the social side and not many with strong fiscal or business knowledge.
“I understand legal, proposals, agreements (etc.) I know that stuff quite well.”
Roberts owns and runs Jesse’s Liquor Shack, Jesse Mart and Canna Bliss in Wabasca – all located in Jesse Roberts Plaza. He also owns Winks of Canyon Creek. Apart from a brief stint in the Canadian Navy after high school, Roberts has been in business for himself most of his adult life. It started with a tool truck, which involved a lot of time on the road. After a few years, with a young family, he says he wanted something more stable, to “settle down.” Eventually he talked Chris James into selling him the Tags store in southeast Slave Lake. That was in 2000. Two years later, he added Tags West, selling the other one in 2005.
Roberts says during this period he also served on the Municipal Planning Commission and Community Futures boards.
“I was the pro-development guy on the MPC,” he says with a chuckle.
In 2007, Roberts started a convenience store in Canyon Creek.
Then in 2014, he found himself starting over, after the break-up of his marriage.
“I left my ex-wife with the store (Tags East),” he says. “I had to start again from nothing.”
In 2015, he got started in Wabasca, buying “a tiny building” from Jerry Willier, which became the liquor store. He’s been building, improving and expanding his business presence there ever since and was joined in 2020 by his new wife, Christine. They work together, 16-hour shifts, he says, five days a week, along with four other employees.
“I’m probably working harder than I ever have in my life,” he says.
And it seems he wants to work even harder, as an M.D. councillor.
“I haven’t seen too many business people go into the political realm (in the M.D.),” he says. “They don’t have time! I do. I can arrange my schedule.”
Roberts adds he has no problems with the way the current council has operated.
“I think everybody tried their best. But I think there’s a lot of people on the social side, but not on the business side.”
Roberts says if elected, the first thing he would ask for is if administration wants to purchase something from a company not in the M.D. “they come to council and explain why.”
Roberts is one of 11 people running for four Wabasca seats on the 11-member Opportunity council.