Keli Westgate (left) is challenging incumbent Owen Dickie in the Oyama ward of Lake Country.

ELECTION 2014: Oyama ward pits newcomer against long-time resident

District of Lake Country: Incumbent Owen Dickie is being challenged by newcomer Keli Westgate for Oyama ward councillor

Voters in Oyama will be faced with a unique choice when they have a look at their voting card come election night and the vote comes down to a choice between a 25-year resident of Oyama or a newcomer to the local scene with ties to Gatzke Orchard.

Incumbent Oyama councillor and self-employed home inspector Owen Dickie is being challenged by Keli Westgate, also self-employed and a current resident of Coldstream.

Dickie is coming off his first term as the Oyama representative, while Westgate says she is looking to move to Oyama in the near future.

At candidates forums and in questions from the Lake Country Calendar, both candidates pointed to the new highway and its effects on Oyama, as well as the future plans for Pelmewash Parkway as big issues facing the area.

“The on-going and accumulating effects of the new highway is the most pressing issue,” said Dickie. “Insufficient highway signage to identify the Oyama turn off has had a detrimental effect on business and individuals as people now have difficulty finding our community. The second (biggest) issue is waste water/septic. Interior Health has estimated that 50 per cent of the septic systems in Oyama are in some stage of failure.”

For her part, Westgate, whose husband works at Gatzke Orchards, pointed to waste management and its connection to health and cleanliness of the area’s water as a major issue in Lake Country. Specific to Oyama she, said highway safety and signage with regard to the new and old highway 97 is big issue.

With Westgate not living in Oyama, the issue of where a candidate lives has come up in candidate forums. Westgate said she lives just 10 minutes from the ward and has already formed strong ties to the area.

“Only one person came forward to run in Oyama, so I decided to run,” she said. “I think you can be accessible if you don’t live there. I live 10 minutes away and my husband works in Oyama. I think it’s more important to be available to people and that doesn’t always have to be in person. I bring a fresh perspective and have up-to-date ideas that are rooted in solutions.”

As for Dickie, who raised three children in Oyama, he says he has been available at all times during his first term as a councillor and believes his roots in Oyama are a benefit.

“I have been proactive trying to see issues and problems before they surface and have worked to mitigate them in advance,” he said. “While I believe everyone should have a choice about where they live, I also believe that if you are going to decide where the boat is going, you should have a paddle in the water.”

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