Three incumbents and two newcomers will represent the different wards of Lake Country after Saturday’s municipal election.
Okanagan Centre incumbent Lisa Cameron was unseated by newcomer Blair Ireland while Oyama incumbent Owen Dickie, Winfield’s Rob Geier and at-large councillor Penny Gambell retained their seats with former councillor Bill Scarrow also elected to council.
“I was very excited,” said Gambell of her reaction when getting the news of her election win on Saturday. “I have to say I kind of yelled. I was very pleased. One thing we need to focus on is our front porch meetings and really getting public input, just not from certain people but from the general public. I think we really need to get out and hear what people are saying.”
Scarrow, a BC Transit worker was second to Gambell’s 1,331 votes earning 920 votes and outpacing Dan Rae, who placed third with 787 votes. Richard Issler (494) and Arlene Brenner (466) also ran for the two at-large seats.
For Scarrow, it will be his fourth term on Lake Country council, dating back to when Lake Country first incorporated. He lost out in the 2011 election and said he is extremely happy to be back working for the residents of Lake Country.
“I know where this community has come from,” said Scarrow, who was born in Lake Country and was driving a bus Saturday night when he heard the results. “I’m flattered and I’m looking forward to a whole bunch of things. I’m a littler nervous about what I am jumping into. I’m hearing lots of different commentary (about the municipality). Some are saying it’s all good and some are saying it’s not good. I want to make an assessment, see what it looks like and add my voice to the six others in the room.”
Leading up to the deadline to file nomination papers to run for this year’s election, incumbent councillor Rob Geier in Winfield was undecided whether he would let his name stand for a second term.
A long-time teacher at George Elliot, Geier is retiring this summer and had thoughts of possibly teaching abroad. But in the end he decided to run against former administrator Randy Rose, winning the election with 783 votes to Rose’ 248.
“There were a lot of people that urged me to run again,” said Geier on Monday. “I think more than anything they wanted someone to challenge Randy. You need to have at least two people running and it would have been nice to have more than two. Being connected to the community as a teacher really helps After 27 years you really become immersed in the community.”
Rose brought forward the issue of the restructuring in Lake Country’s municipal hall during the campaign but in the end the electorate stuck with Geier in Winfield.
“The sad part about the Lake Country election is the extremely poor turnout,” said Rose. “There is a huge number of voters who are simply disengaged respecting our municipal government. Despite my efforts to raise awareness of the waste going on there, most residents don’t see the importance of holding our leaders accountable for their actions. Having said that, all the candidates and those elected care about our community deeply and I trust council will move the municipality forward into the future, and from my own perspective, hopefully with more fiscal prudence.”
In Okanagan Centre, Ireland successfully challenged Cameron in a race that seemed to come down to a long-standing issue of the removal of private docks and the clean-up of the public beach in the ward. Cameron was elected in 2011 on a campaign to clear the Okanagan Centre linear park of private property, a move that rankled the feathers of some residents, including Ireland, who appeared at council with a petition trying to overturn the move. It was an issue that never truly died in Okanagan Centre and when the votes were tallied Ireland had 344 to Cameron’s 282.
Cameron said she was disappointed in the results but proud of her track record.
“I am proud of my achievements over the past three years,” she said. “I accomplished a lot, and not only did I listen to residents, but I acted to support them. My legacy will be returning Okanagan Centre beach back to our community where it belongs. It’s now up to residents to safeguard our public spaces, and ensure the new council values our tax dollars and has the vision to spend them wisely.”
For Ireland it will be his first foray into local politics. He admitted he is nervous to start something new but excited for the opportunity.
“I was pretty happy with the results and I’m a little nervous. There is a lot of work to do and a big learning curve ahead of me,” said Ireland who denied it was an election over the beach issue. “It’s really not about the beach. It’s purely who’s going to represent the people and listen to everybody.”
In Oyama, Dickie outpaced challenger Keli Westgate, with 278 votes to 127 in a race that featured the long-time incumbent challenged by a younger newcomer to the community.
Dickie commended Westgate for a great campaign.
“I would have to start by saying I was relieved,” said Dickie after the vote. “Keli ran an effective campaign. Overall, I have to say it is an endorsement of the last three years. We have made some hard decisions and while they may not have been the most popular, people recognize they were needed.”
Westgate, whose husband works at Gatzke Orchard and is in the process of relocating to the area, said it was a great learning experience running for council.
“I wanted to give Oyama residents a choice on the ballot,” she said. “I thought I was able to bring forward some ideas. I’m very new to the area so I’m not surprised. I learned a lot and I know la lot more about the process for next time around.”