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BEYOND THE HEADLINES: And the race is on
There will be an elephant in the room for the next 10 months.
Intense speculation will abound as to whether incumbent mayors and councillors in the North Okanagan will attempt to retain their seats in November or if others will enter the political scene for the first time.
In fact, some of that discussion has already surfaced through year-end interviews The Morning Star has conducted with the mayors.
In the case of Rob Sawatzky, he is unwilling to indicate if he wants a second term in Vernon’s top job.
“My plan is to discuss it with my family and make a decision as the year moves on,” he said.
“You have to consider age, health and family. It’s a very time-consuming position. But it’s very rewarding to see the co-operative effort to build a community and to be part of it.”
Not committing to a third term is Armstrong’s Chris Pieper.
“I’m almost to the point where I can say I’d have to find a reason not to run for mayor. I’ll probably decide in the summer,” he said.
Others, though, are more confident in their response.
“I think I’ve just begun,” said Janice Brown, Spallumcheen mayor.
“I’ve been getting lots of positive feedback and support from the community, council and staff. Because we’re working so hard and achieving things, it’s like an a-ha moment, that this is why I do what I do.”
Coldstream’s Jim Garlick is considering all options.
“I see myself participating in council in some way in the future. I don’t know if it’s the mayor’s position or not,” he said.
But the crystal ball gazing isn’t just left to the current crop of mayors.
There’s no question that some councillors will see 2014 as the time they make a play for the big enchilada. And one just has to look at the last civic election to see how that evolves — councillors in Enderby, Spallumcheen and Lumby ran for mayor. Some were successful and others were sent to the political wilderness.
Already, there is speculation that one or two Vernon councillors are considering mayoralty campaigns. But if Sawatzky is on the ballot again, it could be challenging to present a viable alternative to voters when this city council has been relatively united on major issues. What is the distinct difference a councillor would offer instead of the leadership coming from Sawatzky?
Of course the same question could be posed if Sawatzky decides to retire. What sets two candidates apart when they frequently raised their hands together as council colleagues?
But not all of the scuttle will be limited to the existing powers-that-be. Elections frequently bring out prominent businesspeople and community advocates.
Is there a chance that those pushing for amalgamation will place their names on the ballot in Vernon, Coldstream and the two electoral areas? And if they do, will they present platforms broader than just that single issue?
The next few months will be interesting, especially as councils are occasionally accused of making decisions that bolster their chances at the polls. In other cases, major decisions are shelved so the next round of officials have their say.
November is a long ways away, but the countdown is on.