Meet the candidates in Valemount

Municipal – North Central/Cariboo District – Valemount

Mayoral Candidates: Andru McCracken; Peter Reimer; Sandy Salt; Owen Torgerson

Candidates for Council: Hollie Blanchette (incumbent); Sheri Gee; Eugene Jamin; Donnie MacLean;
Peter Pearson; Rita Rewerts; Nathan Smith

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Valemount Candidates for Mayor 

In alphabetical order:

Meet the candidates in Valemount
Andru McCracken

Background:  McCracken has lived in Valemount for 17 years. He loves to ski, bike, hike and gaze out at the mountains. Says McCracken, “I am married and have a spunky two-year-old daughter. I’ve held a number of fulfilling jobs with a community focus. I am currently the Editor of the Rocky Mountain Goat newspaper. From 2011 to 2014 I was Mayor of Valemount. When I look back, I believe our council did good work despite many challenges. For instance, we helped establish the fledgling Valemount Bike Park, approved a brewery and food truck on 5th Avenue, gained a traffic light at the main intersection in the village, reduced regulation on home-based businesses, helped the community forest purchase an industrial park and fought hard to expand the community forest. Council did its part to help Valemount thrive after a difficult period. We set the community on a course to attract new families. During my time as mayor we had a devastating flood on Swift Creek that threatened our water system. At the end of our term we had a series of sewer failures on 8th and 9th Ave. In both cases we left far more robust systems in place for the future.”

“I decided to run for mayor because, if we’re going to thrive, council must work with the organizations, volunteers and entrepreneurs of Valemount. Council needs to get back to serving - and working with the community. Valemount can do more to support local seniors. We need assisted living units. Council needs to lobby for them and help organizations spearheading projects for seniors. Maintaining and increasing the number of industrial, manufacturing and other high paying jobs is key. We need jobs that can sustain a mortgage. We also need to address the housing crisis. The lack of housing is hampering our economy, but it comes with its own solution: Building. Construction creates jobs. Council can help in three main ways: We can make it easier to build by cutting outdated size regulations and red tape, encourage multifamily residential complexes and support organizations that are building new housing. Families are incredibly important to our community. Council should support the organizations that provide services to children and families. As we grow and change, we need to keep in mind why we love this community. If you’d like to know more about my platform or ask questions see my blog andru4mayor.blogspot.com."

Meet the candidates in Valemount
Peter Reimer

Background: Reimer moved to Valemount with his family 30 years ago and purchased the local insurance agency. His wife Pat taught at the elementary school. Both their children attended school here and graduated from Valemount Senior Secondary. Twenty-five years ago he successfully passed examinations that qualified him as a Notary Public in the Province of British Columbia. “In operating the insurance business and the notary business,” says Reimer, “I have promoted Valemount throughout the province, throughout Canada and the world. I still have loyal clients in many areas of the province and the world.”

“My decision to put my name forward as candidate for mayor comes from a desire to give back to the community using my business experience and skills to continue growing Valemount to be the amazing community it can be. My desire is to see us working together as a team, the community, the council, and the administration to build for the future. We have challenging times and uncertain times, and we need a steady, objective, clear direction to build this community successfully. Certainly affordable housing, cost of living paying for the goods and services, health care and assisted living as we age, are concerns we all share. They will need to be solved together, not by a select few handing out some new formula. Ask not what your community can do for you – ask what you can do for your community, and then we can work through these concerns together. I am committed to devote the time it requires to be the mayor and to lead a forward thinking team of council who, while diverse, will work harmoniously. The best we can do is to continue to keep and put in place good policy and bylaws that get government out of the way and let people be successful. We do not need more debt and we need to pay down the debt we have so that we can ride out any economic challenge should the winds of change blow the other way. I look forward to your support by voting for me on October 20th to keep Valemount a great place for all to live, work and play."

Meet the candidates in Valemount
Sandy Salt

Background: Sandy Salt has a Business Administration/Accounting Diploma and 36 years experience in business bookkeeping/accounting and administrative duties. She has lived in Valemount since 2006 and worked as Village of Valemount Corporate Officer from 2007-2011. Salt was first elected to Valemount Council in 2011. Some of her key Council appointments have been: Alternate Director on the RDFFG Board of Directors; CBT/CIPAAP Adjudication, Valemount Community Forest Board of Directors; Museum Building; Prince George Treaty Advisory; Public Library Building Expansion; Village of Valemount Bylaw and Policy Review; Emergency Planning and Lease Review Committees; Municipal Finance Authority of BC; Trans Canada Yellowhead Highway Assoc. (elected to Board of Directors in 2014; appointed Executive Committee Resolutions Chair 2015-2017; President 2017-2018); Valemount and Area Chamber of Commerce Council Liaison.

“My decision to run as candidate for Mayor this election was influenced by thorough thought and consideration of my previous eleven and a half years involved with the Village of Valemount; first as a Senior Staff member in the position of Corporate Officer for four and a half years, then as a Councillor for the last seven years through which I have gained a tremendous amount of experience, training, colleagues and contacts at various levels of government throughout Canada. I have accomplished and received my Level 1 and 2 Advanced Certificates in Local Government Leadership from the Local Government Leadership Academy, am currently working on my Level 3 Certificate of Excellence. I have received tremendous support and encouragement from many citizens of Valemount and other levels of government since prior to the 2014 election to run for the position of Mayor, and believe that the timing is now right for this election. I believe the specific issues that are currently relevant to the residents in Valemount at this particular moment in time are well-paying industrial jobs, affordable housing, sufficient and suitable child care, and all the amenities possible required for a good quality rural and remote life.”

Meet the candidates in Valemount
Owen Torgerson

Background: Says Torgerson, “My folks brought me into this world in 1977 and I’ve pretty much been here ever since. Sure, I vacated during and after high school to travel, seek out some further education, ponder a few different careers paths, but I can tell you, there is no better place than Valemount and there no better place to call home.” 

“Volunteerism with one group or another is a reward within itself. Serving one’s entire village is something I truly aspire to. I’ve been engaged civically in this community. During the 2011-2014 administration, I was fortunate enough to be part of the Advisory Planning Commission, the Integrated Sustainable Community Planning Team and the Columbia Basin Trust Community Initiatives Adjudication Committee. I had especially excellent mentors throughout these groups and it was an absolute privilege to work with them all. This teamwork led to a successful campaign in 2014. Forever counting pennies and knowing budgets can make or break a corporation. My Council appointments included some of the highest economic and safety drivers in the area, including: VARDA, Tourism Valemount, Valemount Community Forest Company, Public Works, Kinder Morgan Expansion and Emergency Planning. I’m seeking the office of Mayor to continue serving the people of this fantastic village. Youth will play an important role in leadership and to address the many needs heading into the future. The considerable network I have built across the province will greatly contribute to collaboration and to enhanced opportunities for all who live here. It does not come without challenges and I, along with the entire Council, will be ready to meet those head on. Planning is critical. Reliable infrastructure is critical. Free enterprise is critical. Housing is critical. Communication is critical. Taking any one of those out of the equation means we go back to the dark ages.”  


Valemount Council Candidates 

In alphabetical order:

Meet the candidates in Valemount
Hollie Blanchette

Background: After serving in the Canadian Armed Forces as Military Police and moving so often, Blanchette and her family came to Valemount where her husband grew up and some family still live. She wanted to feel connected to the Village and its citizens and thought, “Why not public office?” Her husband David retired here, and her daughter has bought a house and works here. Blanchette has been working in the Public Library for 13 years. Working there and serving on several committees she says has allowed her to engage with people and hear the issues and concerns we all face.

“Valemount is facing huge housing issues - affordable, senior and social. As a tourism village we need to be able to house our people who work, shop and play here. Growing families want to have a choice in expanding their living arrangements, and should be afforded that option. Seniors who have lived, worked and grown families deserve and have earned the right to age here with family and friends, in a comforting and familiar environment. Childcare... we need more. With more young families wanting to come here we need to be able to offer what they need. Marijuana is coming, and whether we agree or not it will be something that our village needs to face and deal with. The Cannabis Act and other documentation will play an important role in how this subject is dealt with. Our Paramedics need to be able to work full time. I understand this firsthand as my daughter took her training and enjoyed the job; however, not being able to work full time led to her having two jobs, no days off. Stressed and tired she had to let go of her First Responder position. Infrastructure needs within our community are ongoing. Upgrading without raising taxes through the roof is a huge concern. With a small tax base we need to be creative in covering major costs. I am running for Councillor for my third term to keep working on these issues and more. I offer hard work, determination, passion and dedication. They say you should only invest in sure things. My family and I are invested in Valemount. My phone number is 250-566-9095 and my email address is hblanchette@valemount.ca. If anyone wishes to contact me I am happy to discuss any issues you may have or just meet for coffee."

Meet the candidates in Valemount
Sheri Gee

Background: At one time a high school dropout and single mother, Gee went to college in 2004 and earned a Community Support Worker Diploma, and began to work in the addictions/recovery field. After meeting her husband Clayton, they made the decision to relocate the family to Valemount and, she says, after that they have never looked back. Gee says that giving back to the community has been paramount in her life. She joined the Valemount Legion as a member, and later as an executive member. After becoming a Canadian Ranger, she was tasked with starting a Junior Canadian Ranger patrol for the youth of Valemount. In 2018, they had 20 youth enrolled in the program. Most recently, Gee became a member of the Valemount Food Bank. She’s worked at the local coffee shop, hardware store and the bank. Her most recent career change brought her to the Robson Valley Community Services where she currently works as an Outreach Worker.

“In March of this year, my husband experienced a life threatening medical emergency that took us out of the community for 21 days. A fundraising dinner was held for us and the response was overwhelming. We were both very awed and humbled by the amount of support we received from everyone and it re-fired my inner passion to give back to my community. I believe my life experience and career allow me to better understand the unique demographics of all community members. The needs of Valemount are complex and varied. My job as a councillor is to represent and work for the people who elect me to office. My personal views are only one voice in what is best for the community as a whole. I want people to know that I am willing to listen to what their concerns and views are, and I will ensure their voices are heard in office. The community concerns I am aware of, and will advocate for, are strengthening our medical services, increasing affordable housing options, supporting and growing sustainable employment opportunities, and increasing supportive care for our seniors.”

Meet the candidates in Valemount
Eugene Jamin

Background: Jamin was born in Indonesia of Dutch parents. From there they moved to the Netherlands and when he was five years old they came to Canada, moving numerous times between Edmonton and Calgary. After a year studying at Mount Royal College, Jamin headed for Ottawa, where he obtained a BSc in Geology from the University of Ottawa. There he met his future wife Monique. Engaged, they were looking for a community to grow with and moved to Valemount. They’ve been here 45 years. Here they raised six children. “We have always been involved in our town, from our church to numerous organizations. My employment was primarily with our past sawmill (33 years) and with BC Emergency Health Services. My retirement will begin October 29 after 26 years of service.”

“I have been interested in the governance of our village over the years. Four years ago, I made a commitment to attend as many of the Village Council meetings as I could. I am thankful to Andrew Young and members of Council for assisting me in the beginning of my education of how Village Council works. There is a search for truth that is important in me, and a drive to roll up my sleeves and ‘put my time and energy where my mouth is’. My passion has been in service to youth through the Junior Canadian Ranger program, to the Legion serving veterans, to patients in distress or hurting in the back of the ambulance. That same passion I now hope to carry to Village Council in the belief that the voices of many will be heard and advocated for. A big issue for me is affordable housing. This is a challenge in how this will be carried out. I want to know more about tiny houses and the possible solutions and shortcomings they might present. There is the need for co-op housing. There is the need for advanced care housing for our elderly so they may be able to stay in the community longer. In any big project, how do we work with the project to address all the concerns of the Valemount residents? The new possibility of a sawmill for Valemount Community Forest is good news. Local business is a priority for me. I don’t have a lot of answers. But I want to hear what others have to say, to build bridges for dialogue.”

Meet the candidates in Valemount
Donnie MacLean

Background:  MacLean grew up in Valemount, moved away for education and work and returned in 2000 with her family. MacLean says she has always loved Valemount and, even in tough economic times, believed that it could grow and create greater opportunities for people to live, work and play. MacLean worked in the forest industry for much of her career, first with the Ministry of Forests and then in the private sector. Over the course of her working life she obtained and holds many certifications and qualifications in a number of fields Most recently she completed a two-year technical diploma from BCIT in Occupational Health and Safety. She has worked at the Village of Valemount as grant writer and grant administrator, which allowed her to gain an understanding of “how things work” at the Village office and the challenges faced by staff. Currently she is working with her husband in their forestry consulting business. “I understand the challenges and rewards of running a business in Valemount. We, too, have experienced the hardship of recruiting staff when there is a shortage of suitable places for long term rental.”

“The transformation of Valemount from a mill-dependent village to a more diversified economy is taking place. Valemount is bustling with tourists and is becoming known around the world for our scenery, amenities and recreational opportunities. The successful Village-owned Community Forest is ensuring forestry jobs here as well as creating new opportunities for industry and investors in their industrial yard. We are suffering growing pains, but I believe that as a community we can work together to find solutions that facilitate growth while ensuring Valemount is a place for everyone. With change comes opportunity, and we must ensure we are ready to take advantage of it. Participating in local government is part of our civic duty. Having served on the boards of many societies and committees over the years, I currently sit on the Valemount Arts Council Board and am Chair of the Columbia Basin Trust Local Initiatives Adjudication Committee. Valemount is at a critical, exciting time in its development as we welcome new people, new assets and new opportunities. We need to ensure that development is orderly and sustainable. Housing affordability and availability (regular housing, assisted living options and subsidized or co-op housing) must be priorities. I like the idea of “Town Hall” style meetings where the public and Mayor and Council can interact in a more informal setting. Thank you for your support and encouragement. I hope you will place your trust in my abilities and intentions and vote for me to represent and serve you as Councillor for the Village of Valemount."

Meet the candidates in Valemount
Pete Pearson

Background:  Pete Pearson moved to the Village of Valemount in 1998. His wife Kerry and her two sons moved here in 2005 and they were married here in 2008. Pearson recently retired from a 34-year career with CN Rail and now has taken a part-time position at the Canoe Valley Recreation Center. Pearson has served on many committees and boards. He is a 31-year Legion member and is currently serving his seventh term as President of Branch 266, as well as serving as Deputy Zone Commander for the Central BC Zone of the Royal Canadian Legion. 

“If elected I am willing to listen, learn and fight for Valemount as a part of a team of individuals with the same goal - a healthy, safe and vibrant Community. I have been interested in local politics for several years. Being retired I now have the time to put towards the position and I feel this is a very important time in our Village to help with decisions guiding our future. Moving forward, I feel there are several issues that will impact the Village’s future. Bringing any sustainable industry into town that will create jobs that pay a wage that allows people to buy or build their own home or rent a suitable family home. Keeping our tax rates at a point where seniors can continue to live in their homes. Affordable rental housing to support our tourism industry jobs that pay minimum wages. All of these are issues we need to look at. I think we, as a Village, have to prepare for change. We need to welcome new people and ideas and try to find ways to keep them here. Personally, I would love to see an extended care facility that would allow our seniors and Veterans to remain in the community they love rather than being relocated. This would bring professional people and salaries to town as well. I look forward to the challenges ahead if elected.”

Meet the candidates in Valemount
Rita Rewerts

Background: Rita Rewerts was raised in Saskatchewan. She moved to BC and fell in love with the forests and mountains. After the birth of her daughter, she entered Vancouver Island University’s nursing program with the intent of coming back north. Upon completion of the program, she worked in a variety of health care fields. However, says Rewerts, she was hooked on knowledge and continued on at VIU, drawn to social and earth sciences. Moving to Valemount prompted a break from the medical profession and she went to work in the hospitality industry learning tourism and business management. An Executive Administration job with a Chamber of Commerce came along which entailed economic development for the community, delivering Community Futures programs and operating two tourism centres. During this time, she also was the Chair of a Northern Health Regional Advisory Committee and sat on the Northern Interior Tourism Board. Retirement brought her into the extremely rewarding volunteer world.

“Having been approached in the two elections prior to this one to run for Council, I opted not to as I enjoyed volunteering and not being tied down to a regular schedule. This time when asked if I would run it was because of the three vacancies on Council, a new Mayor, and the steep learning curve needed if those being elected did not have the education or experience to allow them to hit the ground running. They felt with my four years on the CBT Community Initiatives and Chairing it for one, combined with my education, professional and grant writing experience, that I would be a significant asset in representing Valemount and its needs. After much thought, and an election package put in my hands, I realized my family and others want to continue to build a life in our Valley and I have the skills to help them build a sustainable and rewarding future. Issues faced by them and others seeking to buy homes here and work where they live at times seems impossible but that doesn’t have to be the case. There are solutions. Anything is possible for a strong resilient community like Valemount and the reality is we have access to numerous funding streams to help us along the way. People in the community need to be heard, their voices and knowledge amplified. This community has endured the economic downturn with the mill closure because of the people in it working hard to live their lives on their terms, and make the community a success. From the creation of a secondary industry beyond tourism, alternative energy projects, affordable housing solutions and the continued enhancements for destination tourism attractions also underway, our future is positive and bright because we are doing it together."

Meet the candidates in Valemount
Nathan Smith 

Background: Smith was born in Jasper, Alberta in August 1978 to Daniel and Florence Smith, eldest of seven and raised in Valemount. He graduated in the Class of ‘96. He has approximately 20 years of experience in residential, commercial and civil construction as a carpenter, as labourer, lead hand, and foreman. Smith moved back to Valemount in  2013 and currently works in aviation as an engineer after returning to school approximately six years ago. In his earlier years he worked as a volunteer in Youth Outreach. 

Regarding what influenced his decision to run as Council candidate, Smith says, “It is a job no one wants to do that desperately needs to be done well. There are serious housing issues that need to be addressed. The economy of Valemount needs more diversity. Bylaws need to be reviewed for relevancy, possibly revised or deleted if necessary. There is need for the development and maintenance of low-income housing rentals as well as small footprint entry-level housing that can be supported by local wages; also a need to impose taxation on non-residential and incorporated holdings of residential properties and discourage absentee property owners operating short-term vacation rentals. We need a mayor and council that are capable of integrative world-view thinking, and who are capable of prioritizing community member initiatives based on mutual benefit rather than personal bias. Ideas from the community are the building blocks of a town. There is a need for further development of recreational ATV infrastructure that also buffers against environmental degradation. Increasing backcountry access has the potential for diverse economic benefits. This should be done with a full-time conservation officer presence in Valemount, and the condition that the development is carried out under the auspices of VARDA for the purpose of trailhead data collection to measure the economic impact."


Meet the candidates in Valemount