By Brian Lawrence
Newcomers Arnold DeBoon and Ellen Tzakis were welcomed to Creston town council Monday night’s inaugural meeting, joining re-elected Mayor Ron Toyota and veteran Couns. Jen Comer, Jim Elford, Karen Unruh and Joanna Wilson for the 2018-2022 term.
About 25 people were in the gallery for the meeting, including Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK) Area A director Garry Jackman, unsuccessful council candidates Debbie Cherkas and Karen Goforth, and Keith Goforth, who unsuccessfully ran in RDCK Area B.
Lower Kootenay Band Chief Jason Louie also attended and spoke after the mayor and councillors took their oaths of office, led by interim town manager Michael Moore. He started by saying,” Good evening,” and then counting to 10 in Ktunaxa, both to lighten the mood, and show how much progress is still needed with truth and reconciliation.
On a positive note, he acknowledged Keith Goforth for going door to door in the LKB as part of his election campaign.
“Many citizens didn’t even know they could vote,” he said.
He also expressed his appreciation to Toyota and council for treating Ktunaxa customs as more than a “cultural novelty”. With the ownership of Ainsworth Hot Springs, Morris Flowers and a logging company, and a partnership in an orchard, the town recognizes that the LKB is a legitimate business entity.
“There is a mutual respect between the town and the Lower Kootenay Band,” he said.
Louie is running for band council in the Nov. 22 LKB election, and urged town council to continue to work with the LKB, regardless of who is elected chief.
“All I can say from the bottom of my heart is thank you,” he said. “Mr. Toyota, you’ve been a great friend and a great leader. … Democracy has spoken.”
Toyota spoke after Louie, welcoming the council and gallery, and promising to deliver on the plans for a new fire hall, following the successful Oct. 20 referendum, which passed 1,301-885.
“Our council will now get this project into motion, and hope to get the doors open in two years,” he said.
He noted that this year’s election campaign, his fourth, was “not fun”, particularly when the closeness of initial results resulted in a Nov. 2 recount, which saw Wilson edge out Jim Karountzos for the sixth council seat.
“While the delays were stressful, the official results were gratifying,” he said. “I am looking forward to the positive changes our council will strive to make happen.”
The official business during the meeting was brief, with council unanimously approving Carr & Associates to be the Town of Creston auditor for 2018 and 2019-2022, and Lorena P.D. Staples Law Corporation to be solicitor for 2018 and 2019-2022.
Toyota and Elford were appointed to be, respectively, the town representative and alternate to the RDCK. Other council representative appointments were put off until the Nov. 20 regular meeting; Toyota is running for an executive position with the RDCK, and his Creston commitments will depend on his success.
DeBoon and Tzakis take the places of former councillor Kevin Boehmer, who didn’t run for re-election, and Adam Casemore, who successfully ran as director for RDCK Area C.
“I’m very happy I was elected,” DeBoon said after the meeting. “It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.”
DeBoon, who topped the council polls with 1,278 votes, has a background with the B.C. Conservation Officer Service.
“My career was with government, but not municipal government, so I’m sure I’ll have lots to learn,” he said.
Tzakis, who followed DeBoon with 1,213 votes, also acknowledged she’ll have a learning curve, but she’s looking forward to it.
“It’s going to be good,” she said. “I am passionate for the people of Creston. I can’t see it being any different going forward.”
As for Comer, she’s happy that her days as a newcomer are in the past.
“The learning curve was so overwhelming,” she said. “The idea of coming in for four years knowing what I’m doing is amazing.”