This is the Life: Election sure to generate interest

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Very interesting. With nominations now closed for the November town council, regional district and school board elections, we will be treated to some hotly contested races.

Only two incumbents, Regional District of Central Kootenay directors Larry Binks and Garry Jackman have been given a free pass — all the others will have to fight to retain their positions. Democracy, it appears, is alive and well in the Creston Valley.

I suppose it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there is so much interest in town council, with 14 candidates fighting for six positions. Because Creston town council is the only government that meets locally, it is of far greater appeal — you have to be pretty committed to want to make a regular drive over to Nelson for regional district and school board meetings, especially in the winter.

A scan through the list of nine newcomers who will challenge five incumbents brings to mind all kinds of possibilities. Some possible configurations for the next council could end up to be a major train wreck, given the personalities involved. Other combinations could result in very good councils. Predicting local election outcomes is akin to buying lottery tickets, but I do think there will be some new faces on the next council.

If there is any surprise about the mayoralty race, it is that it will be fought only by the incumbent and his predecessor. Rumors had been rampant for months that others were thinking about entering the race but this election will be between two men who are very well known to the public.

It will be fascinating on election night to follow the results for school board positions. In the Town of Creston, Mel Joy will have to beat out two others to retain her seat. She’s had a higher profile than any recent Creston area trustee, having chaired the school board for the last year and also serving as the chair of the BC Public School Employers Association. In that capacity, Joy has spent plenty of time in front of microphones during the acrimonious contract negotiations with teachers, and she has learned a lot about politics at the provincial election. Challengers will have to be very well organized to unseat her.

In the South Rural zone, incumbents Annette Hambler-Pruden and Verna Mayers-McKenzie have three others to grapple with. Again, experience will be on the incumbents’ side. Hambler-Pruden is the longest serving trustee, with more than two decades of service to her credit. Mayers-McKenzie was a school board trustee elsewhere in the province before she served as a regional district director for Area C. She is seeking her second term on the Kootenay Lake school board.

Creston’s highest profile politician is indisputably John Kettle, whose trademark black hat has become a familiar sight throughout the province. Kettle chairs the RDCK and the Kootenay East Regional Hospital District board and is well connected to the provincial and federal government. His challenger will have to put up a strong campaign to make this one a race.

It’s a healthy sign to see so much interest in these elected positions. While I suspect at least some of the inexperienced candidates are quite naïve about what the jobs actually entail, everyone has to start somewhere. And successful candidates do get training about their roles before they actually role up their sleeves and get to work.

Having races for most of the positions is only part of the story, though. The greatest, and simplest, responsibility lies with voters. It takes only a small commitment of time and interest to become an informed voter — read this newspaper, attend an election forum, chat with candidates who knock on doors and you will be as well prepared as you need to be to cast a vote.

I suspect that, to a person, the candidates would tell us that a strong voter turnout would be the best payback for their willingness to put themselves into the limelight.

Lorne Eckersley is the publisher of the Creston Valley Advance.