Michelle Staples is looking forward to facing the challenges of being mayor of the City of Duncan.
Staples, who has served on city council for two terms and is the first woman mayor of Duncan, was sworn in along with the other six members of the new council on Nov. 5
Other than council veteran Tom Duncan, the other four council members — Jenni Capps, Stacy Middlemass, Garry Bruce, Carol Newington and Robert Brooke — are all new to the table.
Staples said she’s not concerned about so many rookies on her council, and, in fact, sees it as an advantage.
“I’ve talked to all of them and found them to be excited and passionate about being elected to serve the people of Duncan,” she said.
“They will bring different perspectives to the council table and I think that will give us different opportunities when dealing with the city’s business. Council will decide as a group which of its members will serve on what committees.”
Staples said a priority for her is to increase council’s connections to the community, and she will work with the councillors to determine how best to achieve that.
“All of us made a lot of connections and learned a lot about the thinking of the people in Duncan while going door to door during the election campaign,” she said.
“We need to discuss as a group what we found is important to the people and see what we can do to move these issues forward. I think holding town halls in the community would also be a great way to connect, and we’ll be discussing these types of strategies. We’re still in the very early stages of this new council.”
As for dealing with the ongoing homeless concerns in Duncan, Staples said she expects council will be consulting with the Cowichan Coalition to Address Homelessness and Affordable Housing to devise ways to try and deal with the issues.
“We need to find out what’s happening, what’s being planned and see what we can do from the city’s perspective,” she said.
“I think we also need to consult with local businesses to see what impacts homeless issues are having on them and how best to deal with them. It will be a starting point and we’ll come up with strategies as we move forward.”
Staples also said she wants to see council working more closely with downtown businesses around other issues important to them as well, including parking in the city’s busy core.
“We need discussions with the Downtown Duncan Business Improvement Area and the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s economic development department,” she said.
“We need to sit down and see where we want to go.”
In regards to the ongoing opioid crisis in the city, Staples said a regional emergency response table has been formed, which includes representatives from local governments, Island Health and other stakeholders, that is working on strategies to deal with the issue in the Valley, and the city will continue to work with the other partners to find solutions.
Staples is currently the executive director of Social Planning Cowichan, and she said she is currently transitioning out of that job so she can dedicate more time to being the mayor.
“I will miss working with Social Planning Cowichan, but I will still be working in the community that I love,” she said.
“In my role at SPC, I have gained a background of knowledge on many issues facing the city that will be useful as I adjust to my new role.”