For Kevin Andrews, building a community starts at home.
“I don’t work to instigate change for me, but for those around me, and that type of thinking starts at home,” said the former school board trustee who is running for a seat on city council.
“I strongly believe that change starts at home,” said Andrews. “No matter who you are, what position you are in a family or otherwise, if you are going to belong to a community then you should step up to the plate and try to make a positive difference.”
Andrews’ home is a busy one, with his wife and four children, all boys: three are attending university and the youngest is finishing high school.
“I have lived in the Okanagan area for over 30 years and believe it is one of the best places to live and retire in Canada,” said Andrews. “Both of my parents live here and are semi-retired after operating a business at the Penticton airport for many years.”
Andrews lays claim to a diverse background, with education in tourism, human resource management and early childhood education and special needs teaching. He is currently working as co-ordinator of volunteer services at Kelowna General Hospital.
“I train people, we organize and schedule as many as 60 people a day, seven days a week throughout the year to provide services within the hospital at different levels of care,” said Andrews, explaining that can be anything from greeting and giving directions to helping with filing.
“I go to work at a hospital where our job is to help others, so really is there any better feeling you can have?” said Andrews.
“All we strive to accomplish should be to help everyone everywhere. By developing a community that follows that philosophy, we can work to influence other communities to be better and to provide a better and more complete way of life.”
According to Patrick Buchanan, there is no better place to live than Penticton, and he wants to make sure it stays that way.
“I just want to see Penticton flourish,” he said.
“We have to get out of the 1950s.”
Buchanan, husband to Susan and father to daughter Matraya and son Jesse, arrived in Penticton in 1979 from Phoenix, Ariz.
Although Buchanan, a locksmith, has had job offers on the Lower Mainland, he said there is one very important thing keeping him in Penticton.
“The lifestyle,” said Buchanan.
“The fishing out here is unbelievable, skiing with six hills within a couple of hours, hiking, mountain biking.
“There’s nowhere else in the world that I think offers what we have here.”
Community is also important, Buchanan said, and giving back to a community he loves is something he expects of himself.
“I believe in serving my community,” he said.
In addition to coaching soccer, Buchanan also spent nine years as an auxiliary RCMP officer.
Taking part in municipal politics was only a matter of time, said Buchanan, as it is something he has been thinking about for 10 years, borne of talks around the kitchen table with family, friends and acquaintances who urged him to seek office.
Although the decision to run in the byelection was relatively easy, Buchanan first made sure to consult with his family, coworkers and his employer at Penticton Lock and Key.
“I wanted to make sure everyone was OK with the time I was going to be committing to it,” he said.
Nonethless, Buchanan said even though he will have to give up some activities, his family always come first.
When asked if there was anything scary about the prospect of being elected, Buchanan smiled.
“It actually happening,” he said with a chuckle.
“Then living up to expectations.
“I always have high expectations of myself, I need to succeed with what I do.
“I’m not going to please everybody, I’ve learned that with all of the volunteer work that I’ve done.”
Thus far, Buchanan looks at his first brush with municipal politics with a positive eye, saying it has been a good experience and all of the feedback he has received has been positive.
After he wins the byelection, Buchanan has one immediate task in mind.
“I’m going to call all of these people and say, ‘OK, here we are, we’re doing this together,’” he said.
“The responsibility for Penticton lies within the people of Penticton, not just council.
“There is room for Penticton to grow, we just have to let it happen,” said Buchanan.
“But people in Penticton have to come forward and say, ‘This is what we need to do.’”
Lynn Kelsey makes no secret that she’s a Christian, but said she isn’t mixing religion with politics as she runs for a council seat in the Sept. 7 municipal by election.
“It’s very important in my life and it is very important to be who you are. How I guide myself comes from my Christian beliefs and that’s all about integrity and being who I am,” said Kelsey.
“What I am saying is I am coming from an ethical position that guides who I am and the decisions I make, not only for my life, but my decisions in general: about how I treat people. I am a caring person, I am an advocate, I treat others how I want to be treated.”
Advocacy is a long-time calling for Kelsey, who currently works with the South Okanagan Women in Need Society as women’s support worker at their shelter. She’s also a master trainer for the Canadian Diabetes Association.
“I do a lot of diabetes education, both in the public and health care,” said Kelsey. “I have also done a lot of work with First Nations up in Prince George, I was there for 2.5 years as the community health rep. I have a very close connection.”
The Penticton community is also very important to Kelsey. Her mother, her son and her daughter, who graduated from Pen High, also live in the community.
“I originally came for family and I have stayed because I love this vibrant community. I love all the different festivals we have, I love the fact we have things to do in the summer and things to do in the winter,” said Kelsey.
“I like the size of the city as well. I was raised at the coast but I prefer the size of this city, because you can get the chance to form relationships and get to know people.”
Kelsey is also a classically trained pianist, and said she plays 17 other instruments and sings.
“I sing and I teach piano and voice. And occasionally you can find me out on my lake with my partner fishing,” said Kelsey. “I love classics, jazz, obviously gospel, I play on the worship team at my church and I like to rock it. We don’t do hymns hymn-style when I play.”
Known for his commitment to the community through volunteer work, Andre Martin is extending that duty by running in the council byelection.
“I had a lot of people urge me to do it. I have been on a number of boards in Penticton and it is an opportunity to sit on the other side of the fence and make some decisions that will be better for the boards and the community at large,” said Martin.
After a 22-year career with the Penticton Herald, which he retired as general manager, Martin said now that he is self-employed as the owner of a delivery business and chair of Tec Canada, he can set his own schedule.
This would allow him the freedom to sit on city council.
Martin, who has three sons, is taking his first run at politics but believes his background bodes well for the steep learning curve most rookie councillors face.
“Certainly the number of groups I am involved with I get a feel for what the community needs and is looking for. Sitting around a board table is probably no different than sitting around a council table,” he said.
“You listen to everyone’s issues, ideas and you form an opinion on the information you get.
“When you make a decision you live with that decision and try your best to make sure it succeeds.”
Martin is the president of the Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce (on leave until the end of the election), member of the Penticton Triathlon Race Society, sits on the Community Foundation of the South Okanagan (on leave during election), chair of the B.C. Hockey Hall of Fame, past-member of the Downtown Penticton Association and a member of Penticton’s Downtown Revitalization Committee.
“If it is something you want to do and you care about, you find the time to make it work,” said Martin of how he fits it all in. “I believe it makes a better community and is a good way to give back. I have built a lot of relationships in this community and it is a good way to give back and do good things.”
Look closely at former city councillor Katie Robinson’s campaign signs and you’ll notice a subtle jab at two of the men she faced off against in the 2011 municipal election.
Robinson’s signs note she’s proud to live in Penticton, something the other 2011 mayoral hopefuls Dan Ashton of Trout Creek and Julius Bloomfield of Naramata were unable to claim.
“I’ve always chosen when I was on council to live within city limits, because I’m paying taxes here,” said Robinson. “So the decisions I make on council affect me as well as my neighbours and everybody who lives here in the city.”
The 57-year-old retired financial advisor finished third in the 2011 mayoralty race, and is now one of five people vying for a single seat at the council table in the Sept. 7 byelection.
She opted not to seek the mayoralty this time out, since the learning curve would be steep for a shortened term.
Robinson, a married mother of two adult children, served three terms as a councillor before stepping down ahead of the 1999 election.
Four years ago, she began working at an Okanagan Falls winery, and more recently became concerned about Penticton’s finances. Alarm bells first went off when dozens of city workers were let go following the 2010 core services review.
“How did we end up with that much staff in the first place?” Robinson said.
City administrators, she continued, “fired a bunch of employees to meet their bottom line, and it seems to me a little better planning could have avoided a lot of pain and suffering for a lot of people.”
Besides helping to reorganize the city’s finances, Robinson also wants to help continue building off-season tourist activities, such as Fest-of-Ale and the Okanagan Spring Wine Festival, which she helped get off the ground.
“I considered it a privilege working for the citizens of Penticton, and I don’t have any conflicts of interest or business concerns,” Robinson said.
“I’m just there for the betterment of our city.”