The next Regional District of Nanaimo board will barely resemble the last one. Results from Saturday’s local government elections ensure that there will be likely only three – and at most, four – returnees to the 19-member board.
“I was sort of running through the names in my mind [Sunday] morning. It’s going to be an almost completely new regional district board,” said Ian Thorpe, Nanaimo councillor and RDN vice-chairman. “Very few people back as incumbents.”
New mayors and councils were elected in Nanaimo, Lantzville, Parksville and Qualicum Beach, as well as several new directors in outlying areas. Because of all the changes, the only returnees to the RDN board will be Maureen Young from Area C (Extension, East Wellington, Pleasant Valley), Bob Rogers from Area E (Nanoose Bay) and presumably Thorpe. Of the other 16 RDN directors, either 15 or 16 will be new to the board table.
“That’s a complete overhaul and it’s a completely different animal than what most of their communities are, so there’s going to be a huge learning curve at the regional district,” said Nanaimo Mayor Bill McKay.
The City of Nanaimo, because of its population, gets eight seats.
“The tradition for Nanaimo is the mayor and the folks with the strongest support of the electorate,” said McKay.
That would put Nanaimo mayor-elect Leonard Krog on the board with fellow Nanaimo directors Erin Hemmens, Sheryl Armstrong, Ben Geselbracht, Tyler Brown, Jim Turley, Don Bonner and Thorpe.
Brown will be new to the board table but not new to the building, as he works for the regional district in intergovernmental affairs and was previously a planner there.
“It’s going to be a different vantage point, for sure, but I’m excited for it,” Brown told the News Bulletin on election night. “I think at the RDN level, people often aren’t as familiar [with] the services it provides to the City of Nanaimo and I think there’s wonderful opportunity.”
Keith Wilson, newly elected Area A (Cassidy, Cedar, Yellow Point, South Wellington) director, was previously an alternate and attended about four meetings a year, which makes him all of a sudden one of the more experienced RDN directors.
“I haven’t worked with most of the people that may show up there, so I don’t know what we’ve got,” he said.
Vanessa Craig, newly elected Area B (Gabriola, DeCourcy and Mudge islands) director, said she thinks the next RDN board will be an “active group” and said it’s exciting to have a whole bunch of new members coming in at once.
“It’s an opportunity for a lot of new ideas,” Craig said. “I’ve already got some meetings planned to touch base and start talking immediately.”
The District of Lantzville was represented by a councillor, not its mayor, on the last board. Mayor-elect Mark Swain said it’s up to the will of council, but he would like to be Lantzville’s RDN representative and said he’s made changes to his work-life balance to allow him to take on that responsibility.
RDN board chairman Bill Veenhof was unsuccessful in his re-election campaign in Area H (Shaw Hill, Deep Bay, Bowser) meaning that a new chairperson will need to be chosen. Thorpe was asked about the possibility of taking on that role.
“It’s something I would possibly consider, but of course my first duty is going to be to the City of Nanaimo,” he said.