Valerie Warmington announced on Monday that she will be the fifth non-incumbent Nelson city council candidate in the upcoming municipal election. She is the second female candidate to announce, after Anna Purcell.
The 57-year-old, who is currently the executive director of the Kootenay Kids Society and board chair for Oxygen Art Centre, spent a decade overseas running land mine removal projects in numerous countries recovering from war, including Namibia, Angola and many others. She moved to Nelson in 2007.
“I was working in Ethiopia and found myself pregnant. I’d spent 10, 12 years working in war-torn countries and all I could remember about Nelson was this incredible peacefulness, cleanliness and cooperative living that I saw happening here. That was very compelling to me,” she said.
She now lives in Nelson with her two sons. And though the Kootenays may be a radically different environment than war-torn Ethiopia, Warmington believes there are more similarities than you might think.
“Yes, there’s some danger in removing land mines that may not be similar to what you experience on council, but there are common things. One is to understand the lay of the land really well, and plan accordingly. You have to monitor and evaluate as you’re proceeding, and it’s a matter of being able to manage priorities and budgets,” she said.
“Just because it’s land mines doesn’t mean it’s that different from designing a development aimed at encouraging pedestrian use of a certain area, for example.”
Warmington joins new council candidates Anna Purcell, Michael Dailly, Charles Jeanes and John Paolozzi. Donna Macdonald, Candace Batycki and Paula Kiss have all decided not to run again, while Bob Adams and Robin Cherbo have both expressed their desire to continue their roles.
Meanwhile, retired cop Pat Severyn, councillor Deb Kozak and incumbent John Dooley are all running for mayor.
“I think council has done quite a good job of setting a policy foundation, paving a positive way forward. I would be really interested in building on that. I have a long experience of managing very complex projects, and obviously running a city is a very complex project.”
Warmington said her priorities as a councillor will be urban revitalization, mitigating the effects of climate change and the arts.
“We need to bring development to our community that is scaled appropriately, very human-centric, and that gets us out of our cars and connected with each other. That’s a big priority for me.”
And though she questions the feasibility of closing down all of Baker Street to pedestrian traffic, she acknowledged “it’s getting very hard to park” and said the city should be looking for ways to introduce family and pedestrian-friendly spaces.
She said both the Path to 2040 sustainability plan and the Stores to Shores initiative will receive her enthusiastic attention.
“We need to never take for granted what we’ve got. We need to preserve and protect that. When I was in Bosnia, for example, they were in very good shape before the war and didn’t see it coming. I’m not suggesting in any way we’re facing a war, but I do think there are external pressures we should be paying attention to.”
And one of the most important pressures we should be paying attention to is the escalating impact of global warming.
“We need to act now before we start seeing the adverse effects, and look into the vulnerabilities we face. The other thing that concerns me is the global concentration of wealth, and the impact that’s having on us as a country, a province and potentially even on the municipal level. Money for social services is dwindling. Social services agencies are working with static budgets and rising need. We want to live in a community where people are doing well, so we should at least be advocating for the type of services that keep people coming here and keep us a happy, healthy community.”
Which means something will have to be done about affordable housing and homelessness, she said.
“I’ve heard a number of solutions, including the campsite put forward by Pastor Jim (Reimer) and I think that has some merits that need to be looked at. I don’t think that’s exactly the answer, but right now it’s not okay that people are illegal in the sense they have nowhere they can sleep. This is not a community response to a problem.”
Warmington said she’s passionate about retaining the “artistic and cultural fabric of the community.”
“The arts and cultural sector offers a lot of opportunity for economic growth. It draws a lot of tourists, and a lot of people come here to live because of it. It’s a major selling point for Nelson, the diversity,” she said.
When asked why Nelsonites should cast a ballot for her, Warmington was effusive.
“I think you should vote for me because I will work very hard for you. I know you love this town and I love it too. I’m going to do everything I can to make sure all those things we love are still going to happen, and I have the energy and experience to do it,” she said.
The election will be held on Saturday, November 15.
For more information, visit votevaleriew.com.