Just one member of the public turned up for the Village of Burns Lake’s candidate information session last week.
Jim Minger, who announced during the meeting that he has filed as a candidate for mayor in the Nov. 19 election, said he had hoped to see young locals taking an interest in municipal politics. He said he was concerned that he was the only local resident that had turned up for the information session and wondered why.
Village of Burns Lake’s chief administrative officer Sheryl Worthing said that either local residents already understand the process, or they are just not interested.
She said the meeting had been well advertised. “Perhaps we are just doing a really good job at getting information out to the public,” she said, adding that a total of eight information packages had already been picked up from the village office by potential candidates.
Councillor Quentin Beach said that it is difficult for working families to make time to come to meetings. He said he only just made it to the meeting himself and thought that the 6 p.m. start time may have been a deterrent to those that work.
He also said young families may find the time commitment of municipal politics too much.
“In today’s day and age there has to be dual income families. Because of the time commitment, it is difficult for young families to take on the commitment of municipal politics. The time commitment is a struggle for me because I work a lot, so I have to go for quality, not quantity.”
The candidate information session was held to explain the role of mayor and council, as well as to answer any questions potential candidates have about the election process and what is expected as a municipal politician. An information package was also available.
Councillors’ Beach, Luke Strimbold and John Illes each gave a personal account on what new candidates could expect if they are elected.
Councillor Illes said to be a member of council is a huge time commitment and he estimated that he spends 15 or more hours every week on council related meetings and reading material. “I would think for a mayor it would be much more.”
He went on to say that one of the frustrations of being a local councillor is the small tax base. “Things like water, sewer, streets and snow plowing consume the majority of our budget dollars and we are expected to do a lot with a small amount of left over tax dollars, which is a challenge. You can’t squeeze blood from a stone,” he said.
Councillor Illes also said he has officially registered as a candidate for re-election as councillor in November’s election.
Councillor Strimbold, who is running for mayor in the November election, said he has enjoyed his time on council. He said he is lucky that his employee is accommodating and allows him time to fulfill his municipal expectations.
“It has been a great opportunity to get out and meet people. When you are first elected you have a vision and a goal, but this has to be massaged in to what council’s goals are, and to what is happening in the community.”
Councillor Beach said he too has enjoyed his time on council, but said the time commitment is a huge challenge for him.
He admitted he is undecided about running for re-election however late last week Coun. Beach filed for nomination to be re-elected as a councillor.
During the meeting he said, “I’d like to run again, but I don’t know if I will because of the time commitment. I don’t know if I have coined the phase ‘volunteer politician’ or not, but it is one I use. I know we get paid, but the amount is low enough to be considered volunteer. People are not going to do this for the money.”
“Being on council has really opened my mind and taught me how to compromise,” he said.
Councillor Eileen Benedict, who was not present at the meeting has filed as a candidate for mayor.
Mayor Bernice Magee explained that taking on the role of mayor requires dedication to the community and a lot of time.
“A councillor spends 15 plus hours of [municipal related] work every week, but as mayor it is 30 plus hours,” she said.
She also said that candidates should expect to commit a full term, which is three years, to the role. “As a mayor you are certainly expected to participate in most community events, whether they occur at night or on Saturday, Sunday or holidays. As mayor you represent the whole community and all of the people that live in the area.”
She said she hopes that the public turnout to the meeting is not an indication of apathy towards the up and coming election process.
For more information on officially registered candidates go to www.elections.civicinfo.bc.ca.