One of the youngest people to serve as a Salmon Arm councillor will not be running again after 17 years on city council.
Coun. Chad Eliason, now 44, says his name won’t be on the ballot on Election Day – Oct. 15, 2022.
Eliason was first elected in 2005 as a 27-year-old.
“I’m going to stop doing politics for a bit. It’s been a good 17 years. I want to let other people have a shot and do it. Seventeen years is a long time to do something,” he said.
While he might not be the youngest person ever to run, he is the youngest five-term councillor in Salmon Arm and still one of the younger councillors in the province.
He remembers that first term well.
“When I got elected, I think we had the youngest council in B.C. at the time. Ivan (Idzan) and Debbie (Cannon) and Kevin (Flynn) and myself, also Marty (Bootsma) and Marg (Kentel). So we were pretty young, pretty green. It was pretty fun.”
He said the public doesn’t see what happens, but he thinks councils over the years have been effective.
“I think we did some really good things as a team, as a council, over the terms. I’m on my third mayor; management, everything, has changed through and through.
“I think the people at the table have done a pretty good job of getting stuff done.”
He said his original campaign was to have a place where he could retire and use the amenities.
“I wanted trails, I wanted a clean attractive city, I wanted it to grow and be smart about it.”
Asked about highlights, Eliason said free bus rides for kids was the first thing he got through council, a program the provincial government introduced several years later.
He said the Shuswap Trail Alliance started around the same time he was elected.
“So I was a founding member of that. We just had a presentation from them Monday, and the work they’ve done is remarkable. I think I was there for the first nine years.”
He mentions the phenomenal contributions of longtime executive director Phil McIntyre Paul.
Recycling, composting and curbside pickup were “sort of the big ones” Eliason instigated.
He said he was able to help out with other things as well.
“When I first got elected I think I was on 16 committees my first term,” he recalled.“Because I was young and energetic and I was eager to learn and eager to contribute.
“They’d be like, this is a committee, and Marty (Bootsma) would look down at me: ‘Hey, you want this?’” recalls Eliason with a smile, mimicking the late mayor’s gruff voice.
‘We’ll give it to Eliason. You want to do it? Okay.’ ‘This committee’s coming up. You want to do that one? Good. I don’t want to do it.’”
Eliason said saying yes to committees and working hard opened a lot of doors for him.
“I think it was doing that in the first couple of terms that really allowed me to get the things done I wanted to get done. My goal was to leave Salmon Arm in a better place and make it a better community to live in through doing the job. And I think it is. And that’s not on me, that’s on the people in the community who have taken the – like staff have done amazing things.”
He said if a person has an idea, they need four people on council to agree it’s a good idea. And then they need possibly the same four people to agree at budget time that the city should pay for this idea. And then, if that happens, council relies on staff to take the idea, or the program or the policy, and implement it.
“So we get the credit – and I’ll take it all,” he said with a laugh. “But it’s not us that essentially does the hard work behind the scenes to implement those things. It was really staff that did all the heavy lifting.”
Eliason said he spent seven years on the board of SILGA, the Southern Interior Local Government Agency, as well as seven years with UBCM, the Union of BC Municipalities. He built contacts which have been useful to council, he said.
In Salmon Arm, coach houses were another pet project of Eliason’s that became policy.
He said he was a founding member of the Eat Local campaign back in the day, doing a lot of work at the start. He’s pleased the city now has the Zest Food Hub.
Every council member has issues that are important to them, he said, which makes it possible to achieve a lot. He also referred to the support of community groups. Rotary, for example, helped with improvements in Blackburn Park like the picnic shelter, washrooms, spray park and planting of trees.
Eliason said he’s happy he’s never voted on issues for the sake of votes at election time.
“It’s not about your income, it’s about the outcome.”
He’s lost a lot of battles in council, trying to get things passed he thought were important, he recounted.
“I’ve lost a lot of votes 6 to 1. Tons. I think I lost recycling 5-2 in my first try. Debbie (Cannon) had my back.”
Eliason pointed out that local government has a lot of influence.
“You can effect change day to day in people’s lives.”
Eliason said he’s always made a point to read every agenda and understand the issues.
“We’re running a 30-plus million dollar organization. It’s one of the biggest in town. It’s one of the biggest employers in town. Your job is to be prepared for meetings. And if you don’t know something, have the courtesy to ask ahead.”
Complaints, he said, come with the job.
“There’s nothing like getting yelled at for parking. I’ve been yelled at for everything. You name it, I’ve been yelled at. Everything. Everything.”
Asked if he thinks he would get elected if he ran again, given that he was criticized for travelling to Mexico when politicians were asking citizens to stay home, his answer is yes.
Eliason said he’s sure he would because people recognize the name.
“It’s just like, that guy, sure he went to Mexico but he’s done some other good stuff, we’ll take him.”
He said he’s not sad to give up council because if he wanted to be involved, many possibilities exist, ranging from joining a city committee to becoming a member of a service club.
Eliason is hopeful someone young, energetic and smart will fill the seat he will be vacating on council.
“The three Ps of politics are the power, the popularity and the people. Usually the people who run for council want the power or the popularity and they don’t necessarily do it for the people. And you want people to do it who are doing it for the people.”
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