By Andru McCracken
McBride has a new mayor. Eugene Runtz, a registered professional forester and, until October 2, was the manager of the McBride Community Forest Corporation.
Runtz said his first move as Mayor would be to get a letter from a lawyer to guard against conflict of interest.
Runtz said he is in favour of a clear separation between the community forest board and council.
“I wanted to see that separated for a while,” said Runtz. “There has been interference from Mayor and council. It is undue influence and it doesn’t help when they don’t understand [the industry].”
Runtz said sorting out conflict of interest is a good move.
“We have loggers and mill workers and a a mill owner on the board. They do a good job on the board because they understand the industry,” he said. “That’s what we need.”
Runtz said he hopes to work as a team to tackle McBride’s biggest priorities.
“The immediate thing, and it has prior- ity over everything else, is jobs. That is the issue,” he said. “There are going to be a lot of people working on it.”
“I want a team that starts off as a think tank, where can we go on getting jobs here. Study the opportunity, make contacts and go from there.”
One of Runtz’s priorities is to push for a community forest tenure in the adjacent Prince George forest district to keep local cedar mills operational.
“If we don’t do something they will be out of wood in ten years or less,” said Runtz.
He said all of the logs from the community forest are leaving the community, except poor grade cedar.
“There are more opportunities than that,” he said. “Let’s try to bring other people into the small business of milling logs and help the current ones we have become larger.”
Runtz mentioned the possibility of a torrefied pellet plant and advocated for proactively searching out companies to operate in the Robson Valley.
Runtz said working with the local First Nation Lheidli T’enneh was a high priority.
“We need to get the rapport going. It makes both of us stronger.”
Runtz also supports a snowmobile-assisted ski hill on Mount Lucille as a way to diversify the economy and make life better for local people.
“We have this huge asset around us. We want to develop it for the people here and people who can come here,” he said. Runtz said he is excited to work with the new council.
“We need to work together and respect each other, use the strength from each person,” he said.
Runtz said he wants to keep local people informed.
“I don’t mean just bullshit either; keep- ing them informed so they can come and participate,” he said.