Experience dominates slate

Names at the top of the polls for city council were familiar ones.

Names at the top of the polls for city council were familiar ones.

The voters appeared to appreciate experience on their council, electing incumbents Alan Harrison, Ken Jamieson, Debbie Cannon and Chad Eliason, in addition to Marg Kentel, who has extensive experience from previous councils. Denise Reimer is the sole rookie at the table.

When it comes to priorities, most councillors mention the upcoming budget process as a focus, plus wanting to make progress on the Downtown College Campus initiative and the performing arts centre.

Harrison returns to his seat on council, handily topping the polls.

“It feels pretty humbling,” he said shortly after the results came through. “There were so many good candidates in this election, any of them could have been good councillors. I really didn’t know how this was going to go. I’m happy and humbled.”

Harrison says he’s ready to return, noting each new group of councillors brings a new dimension to the table, which is a benefit to the entire community.

“It looks like a functional council, they are all people I can work with. It’s re-energizing,” says Harrison.

Ken Jamieson, who was elected to his second consecutive term on council, is also pleased with the new group.

“I think because there were so many candidates, there are so many scenarios that could have happened. Quite honestly I think this is a good one… I see this as a very positive collection of people.”

Jamieson also served on council in 1987 and ‘88.

He said the outgoing council, although there were differences of opinion, was very functional. He hopes this one will be too.

“I think it’s important we work together and look forward to each others’ views.”

Marg Kentel returns to council after a three-year break since she ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2008. Prior to that, she served for 15 years and five consecutive terms on council.

She was a little surprised by the results.

“But I do believe we have a group that will work together that will look out for Salmon Arm’s future.”

She said she has a lot of background supporters who urged her to run again.

“It has just taken so long for anything to get done over the last term. I wanted to be part of wanting to move stuff ahead again.”

And she said she will not have a narrow focus.

“People know if I’m going to work towards something, I have the vision for the whole community. I’ve never leaned toward a single group. I have been told I’m pro-business, but who’s anti-business?”

Debbie Cannon has had more on her mind this election than regaining her seat.

During the campaign, her daughter Kailey, who had recently begun graduate studies in Ottawa, was diagnosed with a tumour on three vertebrae in her neck. She was transferred to a  specialist in Edmonton and the family is now awaiting word on whether the tumour is malignant or benign.

“It has been such a roller-coaster, so I wasn’t able to put the attention into the campaign that I might have otherwise,” she says. “I was pretty excited to see the results, that the voters still supported me.”

Having been the lone woman on council in the last administration, Cannon is pleased to be a part of history as women make up the majority at the table. She notes, however, that Kevin Flynn will be missed.

“He was articulate and a hard worker and had a lot of insight into finances, insurance and benefits that I think really helped all the councillors.”

Cannon hopes to carry on Flynn’s primary objective of creating a strategic plan for the city.

“We need to do that right at the outset, so we are not just turning our wheels.”

As the lone rookie, Denise Reimer is prepared to ask a lot of questions and do her research.

“It’s a bit daunting because everyone has been there before, but they all started somewhere too. I’m up for the challenge.”

Reimer says the advantage is she will be able to draw on the experience of her fellow councillors for information.

As her first order of business, Reimer wants to make progress on the Sensitive Environmental Habitat inventory.

Chad Eliason says it feels good to “squeak in” as the final person to make the cut, with 66 more votes than Warren Bell.

“I’m happy, I know I’ve brought in some things, like recycling, that have not made everyone happy, but I think will benefit the city in the long term,” he says. “We’ve had some really difficult issues over the last six years, so it is great to hear from the voters they have thought you have been doing a good job.”

Incumbent councillor Ivan Idzan was not re-elected after serving the past two terms on council.

He was, however, pleased to see four women elected, noting that the Federation of Canadian Municipalities has been pushing for more women in politics.

“It’s a great thing – it almost puts Salmon Arm in a class of its own… Salmon Arm, for once, is quite ahead of the curve.”

He said he appreciates those who voted for him and jokes that perhaps it was meant to be.

“I have two I’s in my name, I is the ninth letter in the alphabet and I placed in ninth place.”

He would like to see the new council get the city website overhauled, and work on improving community relations and communications so citizens can’t say they’re not aware of what’s going on. He also likes the proposal of having a strategic plan to guide council.