Voters go to the polls on Oct. 20 to elect local civic leaders. But it’s not only mayors and councils being selected — the Regional District of Central Kootenay is electing rural directors to its board. In Area J, which includes Ootischenia, Robson and other areas around Castlegar, two people are running for the position. We gave the candidates a list of five questions, and asked them to explain who they are and their positions, in their own words. Their responses are below. The candidates are listed in alphabetical order.
1. Tell us about yourself.
Rick Smith: I have lived in Robson since 1981 with my wife Donna. We have been married for over 41 years and raised our daughter here. We operate a small farm and really appreciate the way of life that this rural community offers.
Professionally, I have worked for a number of local organizations including Selkirk College, the provincial government and as a contractor for the City of Castlegar. I have always believed in giving back to my community. My wife and I started the Pass Creek Regional Exhibition Society in 1995. Our signature event – the annual Pass Creek Fall Fair – just marked its 25th anniversary this September.
Gord Zaitsoff: I was born, raised and continue to reside in the Castlegar area in Electoral Area J. My family has resided in the area for five generations and helped carve the community through hard work and honesty. My working career has focused in the forest resource sector and I currently am self-employed with a successful business.
2. What qualities do you possess that would make you a good Area J director?
Smith: For the past four years, I have been honoured to serve this community as the RDCK’s Area J director. I am committed to my community and the people that live here. I am fiscally responsible and work hard to ensure your tax dollars are well managed. I am responsive to all of my constituents and make sure that your voices are heard. I am very pleased with what I have accomplished for our community during this time, and hope to continue to work for you as the Area J director at the Regional District of Central Kootenay.
Zaitsoff: I was a very proven area director for Area J for four terms. I was able to move many projects forward with my very dedicated advisory planning committee (hardest working group in RDCK history and dedicated to their community). Projects that helped move economic sustainability for the area included: Tower Ridge development, updated community plans for Ootischenia and Lower Arrow Lake, removal of ALR lands in Ootischenia (unprecedented growth compared to other RDCK regions and municipalities), Brilliant Suspension Bridge, Waterloo Eddy Regional Park, first local government to support Sculpturewalk, Grandview housing complex, broadband and Rails to Trails for $1.2 million. Our group had no boundaries for the better improvement of the area. I am very hard-working with the drive for proven results. I will represent all within Area J and not a select few.
3. What do you see as the biggest issue facing Area J and how would you address it?
Smith: Following this summer’s devastating wildfires, it is critical that we develop a local fire mitigation strategy. I plan to meet with my constituents this fall to ask for ideas and input. Their input will directly influence the strategy, which will be in place for next summer.
Zaitsoff: The largest issue facing Area J currently and the Castlegar area at large is the consequences resulting from the lack of timely fire response to the event of the century wildfires on Lower Arrow Lake. This has caused complete destruction to the water quality of the residents of Broadwater, Renata, Deer Park and Brooklyn. Destroyed thousands of hectares of quality recreation/hunting opportunities. Crippled local jobs by the elimination of tens of millions of dollars of merchantable timber and by-products. Loss of reforested sites and resources by the local forest licensees.
4. Considering the referendum on expanding the Castlegar community complex passed in Area J but failed overall, what do you think should be done regarding the future of the facility?
Smith: My job is to represent my constituents at the Castlegar and District Recreation Commission. The results from the referendum show Area J supports enhancements to the community complex. I will continue to work with the recreation commission and my constituents to find a solution that balances improvements to the facility with fiscal responsibility. I am confident that we can find a solution that works for everyone!
Zaitsoff: The referendum should have happened the same time as the local government elections. This would have facilitated full disclosure on actual costing for the new facility. In my opinion it was a cowardly approach by our elected officials to avoid tough unanswered questions and would have avoided extra monies to hold the referendum. Sorry, in my opinion this was destined for failure for not taking true control of the situation and wavering. There is a healthy reserve to maybe address some immediate needs to be dealt with.
5. What do you hope to accomplish by the end of your term?
Smith: I have been honoured to be asked by so many constituents to continue to serve the community as the Area J director. If re-elected, I will: conduct a public review the Official Community Plan, invest in local infrastructure, enhance indoor and outdoor recreation opportunities, including the implementation of the Waterloo Eddy Regional Park management plan and the planned improvements for Pass Creek Regional Park; continue to ensure that we continue to have a full slate of doctors for our area; guarantee that your voice is heard at all levels of government; improve daily flight reliability at the West Kootenay Regional Airport; and conserve our local culture and heritage.
Zaitsoff: I hope to provide the residents of Area J with sound planning and representing all within Area J on an equal basis with no hidden agenda or self motivated issues. Honesty and hard work will continue where I left off four years ago — paving the road in the future with economic stability and positive forward thinking for all to prosper.