Local governments in the Cowichan Valley had fresh new leaders and many new members after the municipal elections on Oct. 20.
Al Siebring, who has spent almost a decade on council in the Municipality of North Cowichan, won the mayor’s position with 3,017 votes in the election, just 10 votes ahead of long-time mayor Jon Lefebure, who had 3,007 votes in the preliminary results.
North Cowichan’s new council also includes incumbent Rob Douglas, who took 4,223 votes, incumbent Kate Marsh with 3,821 votes, and newbies Christopher Justice with 3,486 votes, Tek Manhas with 3,010 votes, Rosalie Sawrie with 3,009 votes and Debra Toporowski with 2,916 votes.
Siebring, a former radio broadcaster and a past president of the BC Conservative Party, said on election night that he intends to get to work as quickly as possible to get the business of council on track under his stewardship.
“This council is an interesting mix of people, and I’ve gotten to know some of them during the election campaign,” he said.
“Nobody comes to the council table looking to make things worse for North Cowichan, so I’m looking forward to good things for our community. It should be an interesting four years on council.”
Michelle Staples, a Duncan city councillor for seven years, beat out runner-up Martin Barker 494 votes to 468 in the election to become the City of Duncan’s first female mayor.
The new mayor has been working with an almost completely rookie council since the election.
Tom Duncan was the only returning councillor and the other five have never held office previously.
After Duncan’s 750 votes, youthful Jenni Capps was the second-most vote-getter for council with 675.
The rest of Duncan’s new council consists of Bob Brooke, Garry Bruce, Stacy Middlemiss and Carol Newington.
At council’s swearing in ceremony in early November, Staples said she recognizes there’s a wide variety of thoughts and opinions among council members, but she believes the new council will work together towards common goals.
“We have a bit of everything at the table that cuts across the political spectrum and ages,” she said at the time.
“A lot of people are scared by what they see happening in the community in regards to homelessness and addictions, but we are not able to solve these problems at this table alone. We have to partner with other organizations and governments to find a way forward. These problems don’t know boundaries and it will take all of us working together to deal with them.”
Ian Morrison, the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s director on the board for Area F for 10 years and vice-chair of the board for the past year, was elected the new chairman of the CVRD at the new board’s inaugural meeting on Nov. 7.
Morrison was challenged at the meeting for the chairperson position by Aaron Stone, the mayor of Ladysmith, and Klaus Kuhn, director for Youbou/Meade Lake.
Stone dropped out of the race after the first ballot, and Morrison defeated Kuhn on the second ballot in a 10-5 vote.
Morrison said in an interview at the time that his priorities as chairman are second to the will of the board, but he’d like to build on the successes the district has had at improving community engagement and consultations.
He said he wants to take it to the next level and improve the public’s interactions with the CVRD even more.
“The organization itself is on a fairly firm footing, but there are specific areas where I think we can improve,” Morrison said.
“One of those is the time it takes for us to process development, zoning and other applications, which I would like to see sped up. The numbers of applications being received is increasing, but we need more human resources and that’s a problem.”
Other members of the CVRD’s new board include Area B’s Sierra Acton, who will also serve as vice-chairperson, Area A’s Blaise Salmon, Area C’s Mike Wilson, Area D’s Lori Iannidinardo, Area E’s Alison Nicholson, Area G’s Lynne Smith, Area H’s Mary Marcotte and Area I’s Klaus Kuhn.
Tim McGonigle represents the Town of Lake Cowichan at the board table, while the Town of Ladysmith is represented by Aaron Stone and the City of Duncan is represented by Michelle Staples.
Al Siebring, Rob Douglas and Kate Marsh represent North Cowichan at the CVRD’s table.
In the Cowichan Valley school board election, incumbents Rob Hutchins, Elizabeth Croft, Candace Spilsbury, Barb de Groot, Randy Doman and Joe Thorne were all re-elected, and they were joined by new trustee Johanne Kemmler.
Spilsbury, who has served six years as chairwoman of the board, was selected by the board as chair for another term.