Rod Smith decided to run for Area G (Saltair/Gulf Islands) director on the Cowichan Valley Regional District board because he feels he can provide the strong, experienced leadership needed to unite the community, deal effectively and rationally with the issues and establish a vision for the future.
“Bringing the community together focused positively on a new, inclusive vision, a vision that recognizes that our community is larger than Saltair and the islands of Area G, is my first priority,” he noted.
Smith was born in East York, Ontario and spent his early years there before attending high school in Bell county, California and college in Peterborough, Ontario. He lived in several rural communities in Ontario and moved to the Island 18 years ago.
Smith is married with five children. Two of them are school aged and live at home in Saltair where the Smiths have resided for 13 years. They attend school in Ladysmith and are very active in dance, soccer, baseball and football.
Smith indicated he has 38 years of senior management experience including: executive director for the Ladysmith Maritime Society, executive director for the Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards, executive director of Orbis International (Canada), National director of development for both Amnesty International and the Nature Conservancy of Canada and director of development for the Chemainus Theatre.
“While at Chemainus Theatre, I was a key member of a small team that built the Best Western Hotel,” he added. “We also built the new administration centre, the production centre and renovated the theatre. Recently, at the Ladysmith Maritime Society, I led the charge to get the Viki Lyne II out of Ladysmith Harbour before it sunk and caused an environmental disaster. I took the organization out of debt, created a financial reserve and tripled the number of marine visitors to the marina, pumping over $1.5 million annually into the local economy.”
Several issues stand out to Smith in Saltair, with the wonderful drinking water the community enjoys from Stocking Lake among them.
“Recent changes in the regulations on drinking water means we need to move to a filtering system or ground water or partner with Ladysmith,” he noted. “We will decide once the research is complete. There is a price tag associated with all options. Over the past 38 years of leadership, I raised millions of dollars for infrastructure and programming and I am convinced we will attract grant money to help make this change.”
One of the joys of living here for Smith is the proximity to the Salish Sea, but he fears for threats to the waters and at-risk species.
“The southern resident killer whales are on the brink of extinction,” Smith stressed. “Pollution, habitat loss, climate change, vessel traffic and other threats are taking a toll on our way of life. The recent expansion of freighter anchorages off Saltair and other communities has completely changed life for many residents. The only ocean view I now have includes a freighter just off the beach. The last thing I hear at night just before I close my window, something I never used to do, is the generator from a second freighter.”
Smith doesn’t like the situation, but noted taking the not-in-my-backyard approach as some communities have done will not deal with the issue.
“A solutions-oriented approach that considers the entire Salish Sea, and that involves all communities dealing with this issue, including First Nations, like we did with the Viki Lyne II, is what is needed,” he points out.
Taxation is always an issue and Smith said he’ll be watching to ensure it’s fair and Saltair/Gulf Islands residents get their fair share of services.
“I am concerned about safety and security,” Smith added. “I don’t think we are as prepared as we could be for an earthquake. And, I would like to talk with the RCMP about the break-ins we are experiencing. Also, we have a beautiful system of parks and trails, but I think there may be an opportunity to tie them together and add more areas along with some new recreational opportunities at the Saltair Centre.
“The future is bright for Area G. I have a successful history of creating a vision and working with large numbers of volunteers, corporate and individual investors and all levels of government to see that vision realized.”