By Laura Keil and Andrea Arnold
The Goat reached out to local elected representatives to see who plans to run and who plans to step back during this fall’s election. BC residents head to the polls October 15th to select new representatives for local Councils and regional districts. The deadline for entering your name into local election races is September 9th, 2022.
Councillor Sheri Gee
Sheri Gee says she is not currently planning on running for re-election.
“I would like to thank all the community members who supported me during the last election and during this term. I learned a lot about local government, and how important it is to the daily ins and outs of our little village. I learned the limitations of what council and the village can and can not do, and how we as a small local government make a difference every day. I have seen how our village staff and public works staff go above and beyond every day to keep things running smoothly. They are all such hard workers!”
For her the decision to run was about giving back.
“When I put my name forward to run for a seat on council, I wanted to give back to the community that has become my home, and I sincerely hope that I accomplished that. I know that I will continue to support my community, just in different ways.”
She says she hopes more individuals will benefit by stepping up to the plate, putting their names out there to serve on council and see the positive improvements in the lives of their fellow residents. The highlight of her term was realizing that despite experiencing a global pandemic, council worked together to address one of our community’s major issues: the lack of housing. With support from the Village, three different non-profit agencies in the community gained funding approval for their applications to build housing for low-income, women, and seniors.
“It is thrilling to see one project complete, one in the building stage, and to know that the third one is in the design phase. I will continue to follow the progress of these projects to completion, and know that new projects are already popping up on the horizon.”
Mayor Owen Torgerson
Owen Torgerson says he will be seeking re-election as Mayor.
“There is still so much work that needs to be done,” he said, adding that ongoing issues like housing and air quality remain two top priorities for residents.
“There is not one single solution but I will point to the re-write of the Official Community Plan and our work towards a geothermal future to help mitigate these issues.”
Along with these, asset management and planning for eventual replacement of critical infrastructure needs to be a key focus for the well-being of the community, he said.
Councillor Donnie MacLean
Donnie MacLean plans to seek re-election for another term.
“It is an exciting time to be a part of Council as we continue with the many projects we are directly involved in as well as those we are facilitating. I have enjoyed being part of this great team and hope to be given another opportunity to serve.”
She says two issues she’d like to see progress further are housing and using the new Official Community Plan to facilitate economic growth, orderly development, and amenities.
“The highlight of my term has been being able to facilitate the development of new housing for seniors by giving land and upgrading Village infrastructure to enable the development.”
Councillor Hollie Blanchette
Hollie Blanchette says at this time she plans to run again.
“Contributing to my community is very important to me,” she says. “I want to do what I can, where I can and help make something better. For better or worse, I have a hard time saying ‘no.’”
If re-elected, the community issues she’d like to see progress are the clean air task force, which has gained huge momentum. There is a lot of work to be done, she says, and health is always something that is top of mind.
“We have terrific care here from our clinic staff, we can all support the non-profits and the patient groups, jump in where support is needed. Don’t be afraid to make calls, send emails, make our voices heard. Squeaky wheel.”
Affordable housing is another area she’d like to focus on. “We have non-profits doing incredible work, but more needs to be done. We need to work with stakeholders, citizens and government to get realistic housing here.”
She encourages everyone to be involved in the community wherever people feel they have something to offer.
“It does not have to be much,” she says “A little goes a long way.”
She says someone sent her a note and a gift card in the mail thanking her for all that she does in the community.
“They did not sign it, and it had no return address. I wish to thank the lovely person who sent that to me. It came at a very difficult time, and it made me feel valued.”
Councillor Pete Pearson
Pete Pearson says at this point he intends to run again for Councillor.
“This term I was seeing so much potential and excitement for where our Village was headed. A lot has been done and more is on the books but the impact of both COVID-19 and the TMEP project have had an effect on so much.”
If re-elected, he hopes to be a part of the recovery process to guide Valemount to an even brighter future. Top of mind for him are housing for all markets, including staff housing, and food security which continues to be a challenge in our community.
“These are things Mayor, Council and staff can support and find ways to a solution without negative impacts to the citizens of Valemount. “
He says his first term in local government has been a learning experience and generally positive.
“Our team has grown together and has accomplished many things with more to work toward.”
Councillor Lucille Green
Lucille Green plans to throw her hat into the mayoral race this fall. Green has submitted her notice of retirement to the Ministry of Transportation in preparation for the possibility of assuming the role of mayor.
Green was elected in the 2017 by-election and has served about five years. She believes it’s important to have both new people and ideas brought into council, but also to have some level of retention to provide continuity and mentorship.
She feels it’s important to work closely with other local governments and First Nations, allowing for strength in numbers when tackling common concerns like ageing infrastructure, water conservation, lack of affordable housing, forestry issues, health services, emergency services, to name a few.
Green would like to see progress made in the areas of increased rental housing, forestry-related jobs, backcountry recreation opportunities, improved tourism opportunities and relationships with First Nations.
It was difficult for Green to pick just one highlight from her time as a Councillor.
“I think that it was the ability of the Council to come to a consensus on our strategic plan for the village and to staff implement projects and committees in support of this plan,” she said.
Councillor Rosemary Hruby
Rosemary Hruby will not be running for re-election in October. She has held her seat in Council since the 2017 by-election. But 2017 was not her first election run. She ran for mayor against Steve Kolida about 30 years ago. Hruby did not win, and she says she is sure that the voting public made the right choice.
Although she will not be present in Council chambers come fall, she hopes that all the things they have been working on do not get lost in the shuffle. Items like housing, seniors issues, jobs and community livability.
“Everything we’ve accomplished has been a highlight,” said Hruby. “Each puzzle piece that goes into place is a yay moment … (and) directly impacts the other pieces.”
Hruby hopes to see younger faces on the new council, with fresh enthusiasm.
“It was fun and challenging,” she said. “I’d recommend it. It can be frustrating at times, but you are doing something for your community. However, if you’re in it for the glory, don’t do it.”
Councillor Allan Frederick
Allan Frederick is still undecided if he will add his name to the ballot in October. He admits it might be a last minute decision.
If he does, it will be his fourth term serving the community as a Councillor. He served in 2002, 2008 as well as this current term.
“If I see that the others that are running would be strong and effective then I may step back,” he said. “But it isn’t a decision I have made for sure at this point.”
Frederick would like to see some younger people step up to the plate.
“I think there are really good younger people out there that could contribute.”
Regardless of who is elected, Frederick would like to see the new Council continue making progress on the Official Community Plan and the process of reviewing and updating the bylaws. He would also like to see progress made on affordable housing and assisted living.
Frederick appreciates having good Village staff alongside Council as they come to the close of the term. He feels that the addition of CAO Chris Tupy was the best thing that was accomplished through the last four years. After having 11 CAO’s, and six CFO’s in five years, finding someone to stay the course for a longer period of time has allowed for continuity and stability for the village.
At the close of his third term in council, he has a word of caution for those interested in running.
“You can’t come in expecting to make a bunch of changes right away,” he said. “Change is slow.”
Councillor Diane Smith
Diane Smith argues with herself about whether to run in the upcoming election.
“Sometimes I tell myself ‘yes.’ At times I say ‘no,’” she said.
Smith feels that to be effective, Council should have some continuity, not a complete change of roster. She knows there are processes that need to be changed, and wants to be a part of that change. She wants to help make things easier to work with the citizens of McBride through more support from Village resources.
She has been excited to see progress in some of the projects that have been ongoing throughout the term. The new roof for the train station, a revamp of the Bill Clarke Memorial Ball Field, new lighting on Main Street and the re-opening of 2nd Ave are all projects that are important to her that have been set in motion.
“I would be more than delighted to come by funds to enhance the cemetery, and would like to be part of the makeover,” said Smith.
Although she lives outside village boundaries, Smith feels that being a member of Council has provided her an opportunity to contribute to the community.
“It is where I live, shop, volunteer and the place I am concerned about,” she said. “It is the people and the heart of the whole area that I care about. When it comes to spending the tax dollar, then it is the village we must concern ourselves with. We must abide by the Official Community Plan, bylaws, the Community Charter and rules of confidentiality.”
Smith appreciated the teamwork shown by the Councillors as they worked together to cover the Mayoral duties throughout the term. She also appreciated the support she, as a newbie, felt from the other three Councillors.
Mayor Gene Runtz
Gene Runtz announced earlier this year that he would not be running for Mayor again in the upcoming election. He is still mostly thinking along the same lines. He is scheduled for surgery in the fall and depending on several things, he may still consider running.
First is his health. At this time he is feeling really good. The timing of the surgery and subsequent recovery will be a big factor in the final decision. Secondly, if he feels that the other candidates are strong contenders and will do a good job, then he will not run.
There are two areas that he feels are important to be continued by the new council. The issue of housing, specifically government-assisted housing, and the reworking of bylaws and ordinances to make the process of building more accessible to citizens.
“I wanted to address the Agriculture Land Reserve and hoped to see it adjusted during the term,” he said. “I think that an adjustment would allow the town more growth potential. But that did not get addressed during the last few years.”
Runtz also said that working with the provincial government on the big issues that affect the valley was a challenge.
His favourite part of this Mayoral term was the acceptance and support he felt from the people of the community.
“People would stop and greet me on the street,” he said. “They approached me with their concerns. I haven’t been able to make all the changes requested, but I’ve tried. During my health issues, the community has been understanding and I am very grateful.”
He is also very pleased with the addition of CAO Chris Tupy and the stability that has given the Village staff.
Runtz would like to see a new wave of younger people step into the roles of Mayor and Council.
“Young people have a lot of motivation,” he said. “They think differently. I think more young people need to get involved.”
He hopes that together, new, younger representatives can make change in the community.
“You can’t do anything alone,” he said. “You can do a lot together.”
Thompson Nicola Regional District rep Stephen Quinn will not be seeking another term as Director for TNRD Area B. Quinn says anyone interested should contact the Deanna Campbell at the TNRD 1-877-377-8673 for further information.
Dannielle Alan intends to run again for the Regional District of Fraser Fort George area H rep. Due to a very tight timeline to meet this week’s deadline, we will share her reply in an upcoming newspaper once we receive it.