Voters in the Regional District of Central Kootenay stuck with what they knew Saturday, re-electing every incumbent rural director seeking another term.
Ramona Faust, Ron Mickel, Walter Popoff, Hans Cunningham, Andy Shadrack, and John Kettle will all be back for another three years. Only Area I (rural Castlegar) will see a new face, after Andy Davidoff won the race to succeed John Voykin, who is retiring as director after 31 years.
“I am very pleased to be able to continue work we have started in Area E,” Faust said of her area, which includes Balfour, Harrop, Procter, Blewett. “I am happy at the increased margin of voter support. It was a tough campaign and I learned that the public overall prefers to look to the future.”
Faust defeated former director Josh Smienk 581 to 417. The contest was marked by a debate over how much taxes have increased and why.
“My take home message is to try to reach portions of the electorate that may not speak up and provide factual information to ensure they can contribute to and understand decisions made on their behalf,” Faust said.
In Area F, which includes Bonnington, Taghum, and the North Shore, Ron Mickel beat Mike Keegan 385 to 261.
Mickel said he felt “quite confident” going into the election, “but began to realize that I was up against the remnants of the [former director Al] Dawson machine and that they would pull out all the stops to defeat me.”
Mickel says given his opponent’s lack of success in getting the vote out, he doesn’t think Keegan’s views were well received. “That said, I didn’t appear to inspire the voters either — barely a 20 per cent turnout!”
Mickel believes the results send a message that the public didn’t want to return to an adversarial relationship between the City of Nelson and rural areas, “so prevalent under the former administration. We can’t continue to do things the same way and expect different results.”
The re-election of all directors on the central waste committee will also ensure the implementation of their resource recovery plan, he says. He also plans to work on addressing regional parks and recreation issues and improve public communication.
Walter Popoff returns as Slocan Valley director after defeating Will Parker 518 to 236.
“I would like to thank the residents of Area H for their support and confidence in me by providing me the opportunity to serve them for another three years,” Popoff said.
“Along with the many issues in Area H we will be moving on developing a park plan for Crescent Valley Beach to address the safety issue of vehicles along Highway 6, providing parking and restroom facilities etc.”
Popoff added he will work with the Slocan Lake Stewardship Society on a lake management plan, move ahead on a soil removal bylaw and continue with energy retrofits of community halls.
Parker, meanwhile, said he was “humbled and inspired” with the support he received.
“I would like to thank all of my supporters for being a part of this amazing learning experience. I promise to maintain my commitment to this community.”
Parker says he gained a “stronger vision” of what a director can be and understands it takes more than a last-minute campaign to gain the trust of residents.
Although disappointed he wasn’t able to organize any forums with Popoff, if he runs again, Parker plans to do “a much better job networking and getting my message out.”
In Area G, which includes Ymir and rural areas around Salmo, Hans Cunningham was returned decisively over challengers Werner Kraus and Mark Bennett.
“I have always worked hard to earn the trust of the electorate,” Cunningham said. “I believe the election results show the level of that trust.”
In Area D, which covers rural Kaslo and the Lardeau Valley, Andy Shadrack was given another mandate by a vote of 405 to 229 over Ron Greenlaw.
In Area B (rural Creston), regional district chair John Kettle was re-elected by a large margin over challenger Ed McNiven.
In Area I, Andy Davidoff easily defeated three other contenders.
Four other directors were acclaimed: Garry Jackman (Area A: Wynndel/East Shore), Larry Binks (Area C: rural Creston), and Gord Zaitsoff (Area J: Lower Arrow/Columbia), Paul Peterson (Area K: Arrow Lakes).
Zaitsoff also ran for mayor of Castlegar but fell short Saturday.