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Meet your new city council

The municipal election candidates, in their own words

The voters have spoken and Castlegar has a new mayor and city council.

Bruno Tassone was chosen as mayor last night with a solid 46.3 per cent of the vote, defeating four-term mayor Lawrence Chernoff and 16-year council veteran Deb McIntosh.

Six people were chosen from the field of 12 candidates, three incumbents and three new councillors.

We asked all the candidates to introduce themselves and talk some policy during the campaign. Here’s how your new councillors answered:

Tell us about yourself

Sue Heaton-Sherstobitoff:

I moved to Castlegar in 1988 to attend Selkirk College. I have worked at BC Hydro since 1992. I’m married to Curtis and we have two girls. Jordan is in nursing and Sydney is in Grade 11. Since moving to Castlegar I have been very active in our community by volunteering in many organizations and non-profits. I was president of the gymnastics club for many years, chair of the Selkirk College Foundation, director of the Castlegar and District Chamber of Commerce, and volunteer for many other organizations such as the Selkirk Saints, Community Harvest Food Bank, Pass Creek Fall Fair and Kootenay Festival. I love this community.

Cherryl MacLeod:

I have lived in Castlegar for over 40 years and have raised four children here. Now that our children and five grandchildren live in the area as well, Castlegar will always be home. I love living here and feel it’s time to use my skills and abilities to help move this amazing community forward. When there was something that could be improved, I’ve always been someone who tried to make it happen. I have worked in the Castlegar school system for 27 years. I am currently the childcare worker at Robson Community School.

Maria McFaddin:

I was born in this area, and have lived here most of my life apart from a few years on Vancouver Island and in Winnipeg. Thankfully I’ve been afforded the opportunity to travel around North America and overseas and have seen many different and delightful ways of living, but it really is this wonderful city that captures my heart! My husband and I have invested much of our lives here. We enjoy raising our two daughters (and many additional youth) in this wondrous area, and are excited to know that Castlegar is beyond surviving, but actually thriving … which is exciting for the future!

Bergen Price:

I love Castlegar. I went to elementary and high school here. I played junior golf at our course, minor hockey in our rinks and wake boarded on our lakes. I had an amazing time growing up in this wonderful city and look forward to living here with my wife Sara and baby Lola for the rest of my life.

Dan Rye:

I moved to Castlegar with my wife Randi in 1999 to become the Manager of Kootenay Market . I had previously lived in Gold River on Vancouver Island where I spent almost 8 years on Village Council. I was involved in many groups and organizations while in Gold River. Since moving to Castlegar I have been President of the Rotary Club, Chamber of Commerce and sat on the Board of The United Way. I have been a member of the Golf Club and Curling Club in the past. Our daughter Kristine lives in Nelson with her husband Mike and our precious granddaughter Kayla.

Brian Smitheram:

I was raised with three brothers in Blueberry Creek and attended local schools until graduation in 1977. After working at Cominco from 1977 I worked as a Heavy Equipment Operator from 1980. In 1984 I accepted a temporary posting with the Federal Government which resulted in a 30 year career. Work in the Federal Public Service provided interesting, educational and very challenging work experiences with people from every Province and Territory. After being laid off/retired in 2014, I moved back to Castlegar and have been living a quiet but enjoyable life camping, fishing and reconnecting with friends and family.

Janna Sylvest:

Origins: Castlegar. Education: arts & sciences, business, law, taxation. Background: rural government economic development, entrepreneur (3 companies, law, web, activist retail, and property management partnership). Experience: meeting tight time frames and managed risk, negotiating business and government partnerships, finance and tax, community planning, big industry (resort, hydro, lumber, tourism) and small neighbourhood businesses, social justice, housing, family support services, non-profit governance, arts and culture, media. I like to hike and am obsessive about restoration and renovations. One of my hobbies is Spelunking. Volunteer Efforts: grass roots housing policy, parks & transportation, culture and economic sustainability, business revitalization, social welfare.

Florio Vassilakakis:

After graduating with a B.Sc. from UBC in 2002, I came to Castlegar to expand our family’s successful Okanagan based business and invest in the downtown core. Since that time, I have committed myself to this community and have shown myself to be an upstanding corporate citizen and passionate City Councillor. Over the past few years, I have continued to pursue different business opportunities, made three beautiful babies and have enjoyed watching my family grow alongside my wonderfully supportive wife, Rebecca.

What qualities do you possess that would make you a good councillor?

Heaton-Sherstobitoff: I am hardworking, a team player, honest and an effective communicator and listener. I continue to be your voice around the council table, asking the hard questions, doing the research, being thoughtful and continue to make the tough decisions for our community. A good councillor does their homework and communicates intelligently, articulately and thoughtfully. I am community minded and have the commitment and passion to keep moving Castlegar forward for future generations.

MacLeod: I’m a team player and great communicator. I’ve volunteered my time as grad parent president, PAC president, president of my CUPE Local, and president of the Kootenay District Council. I’ve also helped at the Kootenay Festival and the Pass Creek Fall Fair. I was a Castlegar community justice facilitator and am skilled in problem solving and conflict resolution. I have attended almost every council meeting for the last four years, am knowledgeable in what’s been presented to the public, and am not afraid to ask difficult questions.

McFaddin: I have been a university student, business owner, volunteer, and now am responsible for working with and encouraging many volunteers in my current role as a minister. I excel in difficult environments and have a real knack for helping challenging circumstances meet healthily and constructive resolutions because I truly value the joy that comes from people being heard! I’m a straight shooter, operate with integrity, and believe in giving room for honest discussion!

Price: My education and experience. I have my business degree and I’ve been on the Golf Course Board of Directors and Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. I’ve been president of the Castlegar Gentlemans Hockey League (CGHL) for 7 years. I created the Christmas Classic Event to fund raise for the Rebels, Selkirk Saints, Food Bank and our CGHL. The classic is now entering its eighth season and over $10,000 raised. I was the Chief Executive Officer of the Chamber of Commerce in Prince Albert SK. I’m currently a Senior Buyer at Celgar.

Rye: I have sat on many boards and organizations and learned to work with a variety of people with varied backgrounds and interests. A good City Councillor needs to make decisions based on the information provided and what they believe is in the best interest of the community. It is very important to remember that you are one voice at the table and that after a decision or vote has taken place you move forward with the decision made by the majority around the table. Everyone is not going to always agree and that is healthy for democracy.

Vasilikkakis: I’m a progressive thinker and a voice for those that are eager for positive change in Castlegar. I am levelheaded, passionate, and respect fact and data driven decision making. I take responsibility on tough decisions, come up with innovative solutions, and work hard to make things better for all our citizens. As a business and real estate owner in Castlegar, I have a vested interest in seeing our community flourish. While I understand the need to address current issues, I have never shied away from the tough choices that need to be made as we look to a sustainable future.

What do you see as the biggest issue facing Castlegar and how would you address it?

Heaton-Sherstobitoff: We need to continue to invest in infrastructure. With the asset management plans, we now know what needs renewing and when, and how much it will cost. Airport reliability has and will continue to be a priority for the city as it plays a vital role in our economy. We have an affordable housing crisis. We need to work on a regional strategy that connects organizations and levels of government to come up with a solution. And of course — health services — from ambulance service to availability of services for our residents.

MacLeod: The biggest issue facing Castlegar is voter apathy. People believe there is no point in engaging because they don’t feel they are listened to. I was one of the many people who signed a petition not wanting water meters … and yet, we have them. Our community members deserve to be heard and to have their voices and opinions shape our town. I believe I have the capacity to help make that happen.

McFaddin: I believe one of the biggest issues facing our city is the disconnect with what happens at a governance level, and how the public can be a part of the process. Current council has worked hard to address this, and I feel there’s room for improvement on their hard work. This will need some attention and creativity in this day and age since there’s been such a departure from traditional social engagement. Can it be resolved? Absolutely! It’s exciting to know that bringing resolution to this challenge will help our city grow and move towards health and vitality!

Price: Our largest obstacle is 24-hour health care. I would address this by promoting our local physician recruiter services, use the Christmas Classic to spread awareness over the holidays and as councillor, this would be on my radar because I owe it to Lola.

Rye: The Airport is very high on my list of priorities, reliability at the Airport opens up so many opportunities for our region. The present council has worked hard on this matter and are making some headway, there is no quick fix for the matter but I believe we are getting closer to finding a solution. I believe we need to be knocking on doors in Victoria and Ottawa making sure we are being heard. We need to be advocating for better Health Care in our region and constantly be talking to Victoria and Interior Health about long-range planning of facilities.

Vassilakakis: It’s not just one thing. I have never bought into the notion that one specific thing needs to be addressed before all else. It’s doesn’t have to be either, or. We can and should work on many issues in parallel. This isn’t just about fiscal balance, but of progressive balance. You cannot move forward as a community if you are in a continuous see-saw. Infrastructure renewal, airport improvements, recreation expansion, park development, arts and culture, affordability and economic development are all key pieces to the livability of a community. A one-dimensional track only puts us two steps behind on all other fronts.

What would you like to see changed at City Hall?

Heaton-Sherstobitoff: City Hall has topnotch employees that assist you with your every need. What I would like to see is for the city to invest in updated technology that will allow staff and employees to access information in a timely fashion. I would also like to see the city hire a full-time bylaw person to ensure our bylaws are being enforced as we often get complaints that our enforcement is reactive instead of proactive. The good news is that City Hall is always trying to improve the way it communicates with residents — but it definitely can do more and maybe via different avenues.

MacLeod: I believe the citizens of Castlegar deserve to know and understand how and why their tax money is being spent the way it is. I have been asking for years to bring back the live streaming (or recordings) of council meeting so that all citizens can see what goes on at the council table. These recordings could be archived on the city’s website for reference. I’d like for this to be a priority moving forward.

McFaddin: When it comes to the big and small decisions of how our great city will move forward and thrive, I would like to see an encouragement towards unity within the council. Now, unity doesn’t mean that everyone has to have the same view or belief, but as a Council it does mean that we aught to support and uphold our collective choices even if we don’t personally agree. In the long run we can proudly see a City Hall that’s healthy, robust, not easily offended, and willing to walk forward in unity.

Price: Airport Reliability and 24 hour Hospital Care: Look at our current obstacles and find actions that can be taken towards progress. No step is too small. Downtown and Business Planning: Molding our long term business plan for down town and up town. Incentives to make empty buildings, full buildings. Infrastructure: Ensure the plan in place to never burden our future. Conservative planning towards prosperity. Community Investment: Investing in Castlegar for our future. Further our children’s opportunity and community growth.

Rye: This is a difficult question to answer. City Council is elected to provide governance for the City not manage the City. We hire a Chief Administrative Officer to manage day to day operations of the City and City Hall. I would like to see more public engagement in Council decisions but this is a two-way street. We can hold open public meetings on issues but residents must attend and express their opinions. I believe we have done a much better job at pubic engagement in the last few years but there is always room for improvement

Vassilakakis: Over the last four years the city has seen the implementation of progressive policies, has put significant capital to work in infrastructure renewal, park expansion, equipment upgrades and on projects that are forward looking. Staff, with council’s support, has continued to find ways to become more efficient and through the consolidation of management positions has been able to increase the workforce on the ground to improve operations. We are constantly changing. I support a continuation of us finding ways to work smarter, encourage development by cutting red tape, and improving our relationship with the public through meaningful engagement and clear communication.

Considering the referendum on enhancements to the Castlegar Community Complex passed in the city, but failed overall — what do you think the city should do regarding the future of the facility?

Heaton-Sherstobitoff: I believe that the complex needs to be redeveloped to serve existing and future generations. How we do that with three areas sitting at the table will continue to be a challenge. We need to find consensus in what the needs are and move forward from there. But before we do that, we need to ensure that all residents are paying the same taxation for the facility. We also need to look to the government for funding opportunities and support. A lot of the work has been done; we need to find a way that works for all three jurisdictions.

MacLeod: I think we need to go back to the drawing table and come up with a plan that works for all areas. A $32 million expansion wasn’t approved, but I think most of us can agree a new ice surface is a priority. Let’s work with the public to come up with a plan that more than 57 per cent of voters are happy with.

McFaddin: Our family uses the complex. We swim there, my husband uses the gym there (he jokes about how it doesn’t show), and we’ve got an awesome hockey team that brings a lot of joy across the generations. All that being said, I feel unqualified to truly answer this question as I haven’t been part of any of the meetings behind closed doors. I think of a tiered approach when it comes to the expansion so that it isn’t overly taxing on the average family. I would like to have some more insight before I commit to any solid ideas.

Price: First, I believe council must come out united and agree we have an infrastructure plan in place. We have the budget allocated and won’t be paying for it later. Second, take what we learned with the referendum and move this action forward. Area I — 29 per cent, Area J — 57 per cent, Castlegar — 57 per cent. Put a plan in place for Castlegar and move forward. I believe we need to invest in facilities that bring communities together, while being fiscally responsible to the taxpayer and communicate our actions clearly.

Rye: First off it must be noted this is a Regional District Facility not a City of Castlegar facility. We must remember that 57 per cent of those that voted in Castlegar are in favor of some improvements to the Recreation Complex. Moving forward we must consult with the community again and get their feelings on the complex. This is an aging facility that needs upgrades to modernize it. Doing nothing is definitely not the answer. Discussions need to take place between the Regional District, the City and the Provincial Government and ideas presented and discussed that can move some sort of project forward.

Vassilakakis: I have been a vocal supporter of the Recreation Complex expansion. I also appreciate why many were opposed and that is not lost on me. While a majority in the referendum supported it, more work needs to be done to build consensus. Understanding and finding solutions to the disconnection felt by those who live in the outskirts of the service area will continue to be a challenge. As this facility is owned and operated by the RDCK, the City of Castlegar cannot move forward on its own. I believe our citizens expect that alternatives come before them sooner rather than later.

What do you hope to accomplish by the end of your term?

Heaton-Sherstobitoff: That council stays on the course it currently is on. That our airport becomes reliable. That we continue to focus on economic development, supporting our business community, attract new business, grow our tax base and promote arts and culture. We are able to secure improved health services for our residents. We continue to invest in our infrastructure, now and into the future. That we find ways to support an affordable housing strategy. Our seniors have improved services and opportunities. And finally we have door-to-door organic waste pickup.

MacLeod: At the end of my term I want to know that as part of the group of seven we made sound financial decisions that have benefited Castlegar. I want our Mayor and council to be able to say that they listened to our citizens and made the best, informed decisions possible based on the feedback they were given. I want to be known that we have spent tax payer money on relevant things in our city.

McFaddin: I want to see a city that feels empowered to action, and feels they have a real part to play in the great future of the immediate world around them. I want to accomplish the job of seeing our Council and City know that differences of opinion don’t have to mean division, and we can find common ground to grow our city upon. I would be honoured to help build a unified City Hall and Council by the end of my term.

Price: Airport Reliability and 24 hour Hospital Care: We have plans to purchase equipment to enhance reliability. We find middle ground to support our community on a 24 hour basis. Downtown and Business Planning: Downtown spaces are full and Castlegar is capitalizing on new business opportunities. Infrastructure: We have a plan that takes inflation and all expenses into account and are completing projects. Community Investment: Knocking off projects that are bettering our community.

Rye: Castlegar is more and more becoming the Hub of the Kootenays. You can see this with Fortis, the SPCA and the Co-Op gas facility to name a few, centralizing there operations here. If re-elected I would like to see continued development in the business community therefore creating jobs and opportunities here. With growth comes more housing and a larger tax base to support the local economy. We need to be planning for the next 25 years not just for today. I want to be proud to call Castlegar my home.

Vassilakakis: Council is made up of six councillors and a mayor, each with different viewpoints and merely one vote. To be effective, you need to listen, but also to foster relationships that allow the entire team to make progress. This is not about individual goals, but about the strategic priorities of all of council. This is our term, not mine. I will work with council to build consensus and show the community that seven diverse voices can come together to benefit every one of our citizens. This is leadership. The themes that I support are economic development, airport reliability, recreation expansion and infrastructure renewal.