Salmon Arm’s former city hall before it was demolished, surrounded by its newly constructed replacement. (Photo courtesy of R.J. Haney Heritage Village and Museum)

Salmon Arm’s former city hall before it was demolished, surrounded by its newly constructed replacement. (Photo courtesy of R.J. Haney Heritage Village and Museum)

Column: Municipal council meetings never get old, just me

In Plain View by Lachlan Labere

Last Thursday and Friday (Sept. 8,9) I was a bit obsessed with a particular website:

The website provides the lists of candidates running in the upcoming general local elections.

I frequently refreshed the page, eager to see whose names would be added in the categories of mayor, councillor, regional district director and school trustee.

I’m surprised by how such a thing still interests me so, given how many council meetings I’ve attended over the past 18 years. No, I don’t have a number, but I assure you I’ve attended many.

My first newspaper job was with 100 Mile House Free Press. One of my tasks there was reporting on council, which I quickly came to enjoy, both for the subject matter and the people involved. The mayor at the time, Donna Barnett, went on to become MLA for the Cariboo-Chilcotin, while councillor Mitch Campsall went on to become mayor. (Also, a shout out to Coun. Chris Pettman who I had great fun playing road hockey with prior to his foray into politics.)

With that experience, I was keen to take on council meetings when I began working for the Observer in 2005. That was when the former city hall was still standing and council consisted of Mayor Colin Mayes and councillors Marty Bootsma, Nancy Cooper, Kevin Flynn, Marg Kentel, Wayne Matthews and Rene Verwey. That seems, and feels, so long ago. Of course, two of those councillors would later become mayor, while another continued to serve on council and, in recent years, as chair of the Columbia Shuswap Regional District.

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I’ve also attended a good number of CSRD board meetings. However, the time I’ve spent in the CSRD boardroom and in Salmon Arm council chambers doesn’t compare the hours I’ve logged in with Sicamous council. I’ve got to hear about and report many challenges and successes, and have met many dedicated community minded people along the way. (I remain grateful for the kindness and support I received from the late Mayor Lorraine March. I miss her newsroom visits and the laughs we shared.)

Over the course of all these local government meetings, I’ve witnessed many exchanges between the public and council, the latter often on the receiving end of passionate pleas, expressions of disappointment, frustration, anger, gratitude and relief, all the while attempting to make decisions for the greatest good.

Two truisms for local government: it can, at times, be a thankless job, and you can’t expect to please everyone. However, it can also be incredibly rewarding, which is evident by the number of incumbents seeking re-election this October.

Congratulations and thank you to everyone who has put their name in the running for local government and the school board. Regardless of who is successful on election day, I look forward to covering your future meetings.
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