After nearly a lifetime of working on city councils, as federal cabinet minister and on school boards, Tom Siddon is taking a seat at the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen table.
“It has been a good part of my life to try and be an agent of change on behalf of people,” said Siddon, who was elected as director of Area D Okanagan Falls/Kaleden. “There are a number of issues in the south Skaha area that I think I can provide some leadership on. Some people like to hit a little white ball around the golf courses, other people watch TV and drink beer, but politics is what I like to do.”
Siddon threw his hat in the ring after learning long-time Area D director Bill Schwarz would be retiring. Siddon captured 526 votes, with competing candidates Allan Whitman earning 277 and Janice Johnson getting 238 votes.
The newly elected director said he has three major priorities he would like to work on during his upcoming term, being sworn in on Dec. 15 at the first regional district board meeting since the election.
“The most important priority, which we won’t have an immediate answer, is how can we create lasting jobs and economic development in the south Skaha area.
“We need to get some alternative year-round employment. Tourism is all great and the grape and wine industry is good but we need to have some employment with long-term roots that can employ 1-200 family members and create a more prosperous economy. I think the town centre of Okanagan Falls, which has a long history of prosperity, is not having the best of times,” said Siddon.
One part of that solution is getting the certificate of compliance on the former Weyerhaeuser property so local business group Zinfandel Holdings can move ahead with their plan to create a business park. Siddon said right now there are still issues of adequacy and quality of groundwater.
“The new project developers don’t want to take on something that is going to require major remediation if somebody else should be paying the cost, so they are anxious to get that certificate of compliance through. It is my understanding the decision on that was supposed to be made by the province … but that is supposed to be settled sometime this month is what I heard. I know Zinfandel Holdings is very anxious to get moving,” he said.
Also topping his list of priorities for Area D is remaining vigilant on matters relating to lakeshore development, water quality and supply. Siddon said he wants to explore extending the sewer line to Kaleden, Skaha Estates as a priority and possibly further north to Heritage Hills and Lakeview neighbourhoods. His third priority is investigating with the community if there is a better way to govern Area D, perhaps through a town council.
A new director also was elected for Area E (Naramata). In October Tom Chapman announced he would not be seeking re-election in order to pursue other things. It was his alternate, Karla Kozakevich, topping the polls with 327 votes, with candidate June Stewart receiving 164 votes.
One of her top priorities for Area E is getting the legal issue with the packinghouse resolved.
“I would love to see that property get sold and a developer come to the community with some ideas of what they would like to put in place. Realistically that could be 10 years from now or even longer,” said Kozakevich.
Another main priority is continuing the work that Chapman started with the installation of the new water treatment plant and replacement of the old water mains. Kozakevich said the water committee has already made that decision and they are just moving forward with it now. After she is sworn in on Dec. 15, Kozakevich would also start to work on some of the issues she heard around the community while out door knocking including concerns she heard from both drivers and cyclists of the dangers on Naramata Road. Kozakevich would like to investigate putting up more signage on the road to bring awareness and provide some space for cyclists.
Incumbents returning to their seats are Mark Pendergraft (Osoyoos rural), who defeated Joe Simoes 221-169, Allan Patton (Oliver rural), who edged Joel Malcolm 285-202, and Brad Hope (Princeton rural), who held off Charles Weber 315-245.
The only incumbent ousted from his seat at the regional district table was Elef Christensen in the Keremeos rural/Hedley district. Angelique Wood defeated him in a close race, winning 289 votes to Christensen’s 209 votes.
George Bush won the Cawston area seat vacated by outgoing director George Hanson. Bush captured 220 votes, topping Lee McFadyen with 149 and Colleen Christensen with 63.