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New Pemberton council ready to roll

Large voter turn out provoked change



The only incumbent councillor running was re-elected, a first time council candidate was endorsed by 78 per cent of the electorate and the slate cracked. Mark Blundell will be returning for a third concurrent term on Pemberton council.

"I’m quite happy with the results," said Blundell. "I’m prepared for the council I have to work with, I’m a team player and I’m confident we have a good balance."

The sole link to the previous council hopes the new councillors will consider his experience and use him as a resource.

"I’m there to help," he said. "I’m there to help the community."

Newcomer Jennie Helmer received the highest level of voter support, garnering 611 of the 779 votes possible. Helmer, along with slate mates David Mackenzie and Jordan Sturdy make up the successful half of Valley Vision: Leadership in Action candidates. The other two council candidates, Shayne May and Brian Young, were not elected. (Alan LeBlanc, VVLA candidate for the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District Electoral Area C director, was defeated by four-term veteran Susie Gimse.)

"It’s tad overwhelming," said Helmer of the level of support she has received. "This says go forward and be careful and gentle."

Helmer impressed the electorate with her speech at the all candidates meeting outlining a plan for economic growth in the Pemberton Valley that capitalized on existing industry. The former business owner would like to see agricultural products be processed within the valley to not only create jobs and stimulate the economy, but to help build a Pemberton brand.

However, her first order of business will be getting up to speed on the intricacies of municipal government.

"I’m projecting a massive learning curve ahead of me," Helmer candidly stated.

"I’m excited about working with the community to find out what we’re going to do, working with the council and discovering all the ins and outs of this new job of mine."

Fellow VVLA candidate David Mackenzie, general manager of the Pemberton Valley Lodge, will be bringing his expertise in tourism to the table.

"I think it’s a good group of people," he said of the new council. "When I look at everyone’s platform that was presented everyone has a platform that’s pretty similar. This should make it fairly easy to move forward."

Mackenzie feels that one of the most important aspects of this election was the high degree of voter turnout, citing the near doubling of voter turnout.

"To me this says that the community is clearly interested in what’s going on."

Mackenzie took fourth place on the council ballot, receiving 402 votes.

Kirsten McLeod, who was endorsed by incumbent Mark Blundell, took second place with 416 votes, while Blundell trailed slightly with 408 votes.

McLeod echoed Mackenzie’s sentiment about community engagement in relation to voter turn out.

"It was a really exciting election for Pemberton," said McLeod. "I’m really looking forward to working with this council and moving Pemberton forward in a positive manner."

In terms of the mayor's race, mayor-elect Jordan Sturdy received 379 votes, 59 more than his closest competitor, Bruce van Mook. Van Mook, who served for six years on council, was not the only experienced politician vying for the position. Mark Hunter, who also served as a councillor, received 62 votes. Martin Dahinden who, although he did not technically withdraw decided not to actively campaign and urged the electorate to consider only the other three candidates, received 13 votes.

Voters in the VOP area were also asked to decide on five referendums. The three questions that pertained only to the village were concerning granting non-profit organizations tax exemptions. The public supported the Pemberton Legion and The Pemberton Lions receiving a five-year tax exemption, while they did not support an exemption for the Pemberton Valley Golf & Country Club.

Residents of Electoral Area C joined VOP residents in deciding the fate of funding for the Pemberton Museum and Archive Society and the proposed $6.7 million loan to build a new community centre. Both of the referendums passed. The museum will now be eligible for up to $70,000 in operating money per year.

Museum society president George Henry is very pleased by the outcome.

"It’s going to mean we can fundraise for more than utility items. We can now fundraise for buildings, improvements and programs," said Henry.

Approximately half of the funds will go towards the salary of a half-time curator.

Henry expects that the museum board will meet within a week to outline the qualifications for the position. The hiring process will begin in December.

"It’s such a relief, because we’ve all worked so hard just to maintain the place," said Henry.

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