After nine years as the regional director for Naramata, Tom Chapman has decided to step down this coming election to pursue other things, perhaps even a different role in politics.
“When I took on this role in Naramata, I always really sought out challenges and Naramata presented a fairly significant challenge with all of its water issues. I feel at the end of this period of time that we are passing over a pretty solid community,” said Chapman.
“I think a lot of the problems have been solved, but there is still a lot of challenges ahead. Personally, I am looking forward to my next big challenge, whether it’s political or otherwise.”
Chapman, the Regional Director of Okanagan Similkameen Area E director and board vice-chair this last term, wouldn’t specifically say what those political aspirations exactly are.
“I’m going to miss politics, but that is not to say I haven’t considered other avenues. I enjoy the debate and doing positive things for the community and area,” said Chapman, adding the lineup for those wanting Penticton MLA Bill Barisoff’s job is long. “Maybe city council someday, I don’t know. I think I am at a point in my life where I need to kick back a bit and think about things.”
When Chapman was elected in 2002, the community of Naramata was facing many issues: a failing water system, a lawsuit with Blackwell Stores Ltd. and then the Okanagan Mountain fire that threatened the community in the summer of 2003.
In 2004, Naramata residents voiced in a referendum that they were in favour of borrowing the $6.3 million needed to upgrade the water system and put an end to the community’s consistent boil-water advisories. Bids for the project came in $2 million higher than original estimates, but lobbying efforts by the regional district and water committee were successful and the province approved a $2.2 million grant to make up for the cost increase. Three years later, in 2007, Naramata’s 20-year boil water advisory came to an end.
“We had to spend a lot of time — myself, the water committee and the RDOS staff — trying to set things straight. We made a lot of important decisions and moves that saved the community a lot of money at the end of the day,” said Chapman, who was in some 200 meetings during his first few years as director trying to solve the water situation. “We have gone from some pretty crappy water to really good quality water through good designing and planning. That system has the lowest levels of chlorine certainly in the valley.”
Chapman came under fire, literally, in his first year as the Naramata director. The Okanagan Mountain Park fire in 2003 crept up to Naramata, putting the community in danger. Chapman put his own property on the line, giving 17 acres of it to use as a fireguard that was ultimately the stopping point for the fire.
“We were lucky that we had a wonderful group of people up here that helped us fight this thing. The positive thing was it really showed this community, despite what it had been through with Blackwell and everything else, how well they could come together,” said Chapman.
It also brought to his attention the need to reduce the risk of interface areas by having low-volume prescribed fires and having interface fuel management. His push helped see that come to a realization, and Naramata now has about five sites that have been treated.
During his time as regional director, Chapman said having a positive outlook has helped move the community forward.
“It’s easy to be a critic, but the only ones that are worth their salt are the ones that can propose a viable solution and stick with it.”