Front row from left, Coun. Sally Mole, Mayor Dianne St. Jacques, and Coun. Marilyn McEwen. Back row from left, Coun. Randy Oliwa and Coun. Mayco Noel. (District of Ucluelet photo)

Ucluelet’s mayor and council consider re-election bids

Municipal councillor Randy Oliwa has confirmed he will be running for mayor this October.

Ucluetians will head to the polls this October to choose the locals who will lead their local government for the next four years and the Westerly News recently caught up with the town’s current leaders to ask about their potential re-election plans.

Coun. Randy Oliwa confirmed he will be making a run for mayor this year after 10 years as a councillor.

“I’m super stoked and absolutely honoured and privileged that I’m in the position that I’m in right now. It’s really a joy doing what I’m doing,” he said of his council seat. “For me, the next place that I can see that I can actually affect some change in the community is the position of mayor.”

He said he’s worked under three different mayors—Eric Russcher, Bill Irving and Dianne St. Jacques—in his 10 years and learned from each of them.

“I’ve gotten to work with three different styles of mayors and councils. So, through this 10 year process, I’ve been pulling away really great things that I see out of each of these three mayors and adding it to my tool kit,” he said.

He added he’s encouraging others to run as well.

“I’ve talked to people already, young people in the community, that have expressed interest to, right out of the gate, run for mayor and I’m supporting them. If that’s what you want to do, don’t let the fact that you and I know each other make any difference. If you want to run for mayor, do it,” he said. “I’m jazzed about it. I’m excited. I know there’s a lot of people out there that would enjoy it and they’re in this community already.”

Ucluelet Mayor Dianne St. Jacques said she hasn’t decided if she will run for re-election and added the change in local government terms from three years to four in 2014 is one of the factors bringing her pause.

“It’s really hard for me because I really enjoy it and I think council is getting some really good things moving and dealing with some challenges that we’ve had, but the four year commitment is a big deal,” she said.

“Where my husband and I are in our lives, it’s a big chunk to commit to.”

St. Jacques, who served as Ucluelet’s mayor from 1999-2008 and returned to the seat after a successful 2014 campaign, said she’s enjoyed working with her current council.

“We’re a good group of people with a lot of varying opinions and we’ve accomplished a lot,” she said.

She said securing a parcel of land at Amphitrite Point for the district and getting the community forest up and running were two key highlights of her past term.

“We’ve also undergone some good, solid, changes in our staffing down at the district office. We’ve brought bylaw back on board. We’re getting on top of the short term rentals. We’re working on affordable housing,” she said.

She added she was proud that she and her councilhired Chief Administrative Officer Mark Boysen in 2017, rather than relying on an out of town company to find one.

We didn’t hire a headhunting company. We decided we wanted to do our best and commit the time to doing it and I think we did a really good job,” she said. “We wanted a really good fit with our community. Somebody that was coming with a vision to stay with us for quite some time and be able to work well with the public.”

St. Jacques encourages any locals interested in public service to run.

“You learn a lot and you get some good things accomplished,” she said. “You don’t get everything done that you want to and certainly, sometimes I’m sure, mistakes are made. But, it’s really a great experience to give back to your community.”

Coun. Mayco Noel said he is leaning towards running again.

“The simple reason is the movement that we’ve made with council and this administration,” he said. “I would like to see that continue now that we’re making some forward progress.”

Noel is wrapping up his first term on council and is excited to have the learning curve behind him.

“It was definitely ‘deer in the headlights’ for a little while, just understanding processes and working with a group of individuals but, all-in-all, it’s been a good experience,” he said.

Noel agreed with St. Jacques that council’s hiring of CAO Mark Boysen was a key highlight of the past term.

“I thank Mark every time we go to a public event and Mark gets up there and really gets engaged in the community because it’s really important for me to have a key person like our CAO involved in the community groups and standing up and making sure he’s engaged,” he said.

“The next highlight would be seeing the legs that the community forest has grown and looking forward to some of the positive impacts that will have on the community.”

Coun. Marilyn McEwen is also wrapping up her first term and she said she plans to run again.

“There’s a lot of things about being on council that I really like and I’m really proud of a lot of the things we’ve achieved over the last three and a half years, so I look forward to contributing to my community further if all my ducks line up in a row,” she said.

“I think our particular council has worked really well cohesively together and that makes a difference in getting things done I think. Accomplishing things when we’re all on the same page is much easier than if we were to be at odds with each other.”

McEwen spoke to an April 4 Westerly News article where Tofino’s mayor and council were asked if they would seek re-election and said she agreed with many of them who said the time commitment is daunting.

“I don’t like to do anything halfheartedly. When I do commit to do something, I want to put everything into it and there’s a lot of reading and research and learning in this position. And, It’s my first time of course so that was even further intensified by the learning curve being so steep,” she said. “It evolves. You learn to manage your time based on all the commitments that are looming.”

She encourages anyone interested in running to visit to find resources and information around council life.

“I find it very rewarding even though it is a lot of time and energy and work,” she said. “I would encourage anyone to take a look at it and really analyze whether they have the time commitment to do a good job at it.”

Coun. Sally Mole said she does not expect to run again, but hasn’t yet made her final decision.

“I’ve got so many sticks in the fire and, if one of them ignites, then that seals the deal; I don’t run. But, if they all fall through, then I probably would give it very careful consideration,” she said.

Mole is currently serving her second term on council and said the time commitment needed can take away from both personal and professional lives.

“The work is meaningful and that’s something that I’m passionate about. When I’m working I want to be doing something meaningful,” she said. “But, the time commitment restricts my work time and family time. It has impacts on those things, so you really have to balance out financial concerns and time concerns…It can be a drain on the other things that might be important in your life.”

She encourages anyone interested in running to put their name forward, especially young locals.

“I think that diversity is really important. I’d like to see younger people able to put their names forward and feel comfortable doing that, but I also understand that when you’re young, and you might have a young family, things can change pretty quickly,” she said.

She cited council’s work to secure a $120,000 upgrade to the community’s local skate park as the highlight of her tenure so far.

“I love that it’s unstructured. You don’t have to show up at a certain time, you can just grab your board and get down there,” she said adding she left a meeting at the Ucluelet Community Centre on March 27 and was delighted to hear local kids enjoying themselves and being active.

“Both the basketball court and skatepark were just pumping and, I thought, ‘That’s the sound I want to hear.’ Kids are playing, you’ve got a range of youth out there it was a feel-good moment.”

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