From the bottom of my heart, thank you for allowing me to be your mayor for these past seven years! I have been honoured to work on your behalf, and have enjoyed every step of the way. Now I have the joy of reflecting on the great things that have happened in our city during the last two terms that I got to share with our city councillors.
As your new mayor in 2011, I envisioned more young families in our community, so we could open a school instead of closing another one. To move closer to this goal, we needed strong growth in business and industry to support our families. We also needed to see improved relations with our First Nations neighbours/partners, as well as build on the momentum of the proposed Okanagan College downtown campus and we were in desperate need of a new Salmon River Bridge and four-laning of the TCH.
So what happened? As you may know, your mayor has only one vote on any issue brought before council. Your knowledgeable and committed councillors felt the same way on these important projects and many of these projects moved forward.
Planning for the future, council did a great job upgrading our parks and trails to allow for increased use by our children and adults alike. Regretfully, the dream of a new downtown Okanagan College campus ended when Kelowna determined that declining school enrolment did not warrant a new larger campus.
Our council did though make several strategic property purchases to plan for future growth, which included the SD83 property behind the former Salmon Arm Elementary School, the Minos property and the re-acquisition of the fairgrounds. We also sold city property we did not need and put those to work by paying taxes back to the city.
In 2013, Telus picked our community to be the first in BC to install door-to-door, high-speed fibre optic Internet. This allowed our businesses to grow and expand, which is why I think this is one of the most important things that has helped our city prosper. In fact, technology has evolved into an entire new sector and was a catalyst for the creation of our new Innovation Centre, led by our Economic Development Society.
Our Economic Development Society stepped up to help new entrepreneurs with the award-winning “Launch-a-Preneur” program. They have also played a critical role in much of our growth, including the development and implementation of the hotel tax that supports our tourism sector.
In the matter of safety and infrastructure in our community, important projects are moving forward! The underpass was approved and I expect we will see pre-loading at the site of the new bridge and TCH 4-laning project soon. We have worked so hard to see these projects go ahead.
After years of connecting, discussing and learning together with our First Nation neighbours, on Sept. 28, 2018 all parties finalized and signed a historic First Nations Communications agreement! This is an important stepping stone to our partnering together in the future.
Now our “Small City with Big Ideas” has been discovered and families of all ages are moving here, earning us the status of the fastest growing community in B.C. with a population of over 5000. They too want to live in the very best place in Canada!
This growth has created a demand for homes (for both renters and homeowners), a challenge that our Housing Task force, council, developers and local housing providers have been working hard to find solutions for. We are eagerly awaiting news from BC Housing for more attainable rental and homeownership units for our community.
Finally, I wish to thank all our city staff as none of this would have happened without you. It is kind of bittersweet for me as I leave, I will miss you but I leave this office in good hands, for once again, you have chosen a great mayor and council. It has been an honour serving you.