It might have been a Canadian first. New councils of the Lower Kootenay Band (LKB) and Town of Creston took their oaths of office in a joint ceremony on Monday night, a symbol of their commitment to work together.
“Tonight, let us celebrate democracy,” LKB Chief Jason Louie told an overflowing audience at the Ramada Creston hotel and conference centre.
“Tonight is another example of our commitment to collaborate and grow together,” said Creston Mayor Ron Toyota.
An audience with about equal numbers from Lower Kootenay and the Creston Valley saw their emotional leaders don symbols of their office. Toyota wore the mayor’s chain of office and Louie’s wife, Angie, placed a chief’s headdress on her husband.
After opening prayers by Pastor Harry Haberstock and retiring LKB councillor Anne Jimmie, the new Creston council was sworn in by Haberstock and town manager Lou Varela. Toyota was joined by Couns. Kevin Boehmer, Jen Comer, Jim Elford, Joe Snopek, Karen Unruh and Joanna Wilson.
RCMP Const. Eldene Stanley and elections officer Heather Suttie conducted the oaths for Louie and new Couns. Sandra Luke and Destyni Basil. Louie was returned as band chief by receiving the most votes.
Louie presented blankets to retiring councillors Jimmie and Arlene Basil. He acknowledged an empty seat in the front row, a tribute to his aunt, who died six years ago. Jimmie and Basil, he said, had served as mentors to him in his aunt’s absence.
“The joint Town of Creston and Lower Kootenay Band inaugural council meeting is very, very special for me,” Toyota said. “Our two councils have developed a growing and solid relationship since 2009, with several Community to Community forums sponsored by the Union of BC Municipalities.”
After thanking his family — wife Judy, daughters Amy and Denise and their families, and his mother, Betty — Toyota acknowledged the council he will work with in the coming four-year term.
“I welcome back Coun. Joanna Wilson, now starting her 10th year, and I welcome our new and independent councillors,” he said. “A week ago, we went through a two-day council orientation facilitated by Dr. Gord McIntosh from Vancouver Island and his comment to me midway through our 12-hour meeting was, ‘You have a solid and well-rounded, independent-thinking team.’ For this I thank each of you as citizens who voted for this great council.”
Louie acknowledged that the LKB election included elements of bitterness, with challengers for positions on council including his father and brother.
“I ask our community to allow your leaders to do the job we have been elected to do, ”he said. “We want to make a push forward to plan for our future. Economic initiatives are at our doorstep.”
The former educational assistant at Yaqan Nukiy School spoke of passing by the school on his way to work each morning at the band administration office. The children, he said, served as his inspiration.
“We must treat each child in the community as if they are a chief,” he said.
He also gave thanks to his supporters, including his wife and children.
“Saying thank you just doesn’t seem sufficient,” he said. “I also want to thank Mayor Toyota for becoming a mentor and a close friend.”
Louie and Toyota each referred to the importance of a document signed by their councils in 2010, a Memorandum of Understanding and Friendship.
Among its stated purposes, it says, “The parties have mutual respect for each other’s mandates, policies, values and areas of jurisdiction.
“The parties share mutual interest in sound governance of the region and recognize that each have distinct authorities and responsibilities toward their members and residents and acknowledge that the interests of all persons living in the communities are best served by working together in the spirit of co-operation.”