There’s no shortage of choices as Vernon heads to the advanced polls this week.
The byelection for a city council position, created by the death of Dalvir Nahal.
While the general election takes place Dec. 4, there are several opportunities for residents to make their mark ahead of time.
Advance voting begins Wednesday, Nov. 24 at the Schubert Centre, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
There will also be four varying time opportunities at Vernon City Hall: Nov. 25 from 4-8 p.m., Nov. 27 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Dec. 1 and 2 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Voting takes place Dec. 4 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Priest Valley Gymnasium, Ellison Elementary School, Vernon Secondary School and Community Baptist Church.
There are 11 candidates vying for the position: Kevin Demers, Teresa Durning, Flora Evans, Sherrilee Franks, Arthur Gourley, Stephanie Hendy, Catherine Lord, Jamie Morrow, Erik Olesen, Ed Stranks and Andy Wylie.
A vote for Kevin Demers is a vote for renewed perspective and a brighter future for all Vernonites, says the former oil field consultant from Alberta. He and his family moved to Vernon in 2015 to open Hemp and Wellness, which he says quickly became a popular place for citizens to obtain herbal remedies.
“I’m no stranger to hard work building two businesses from the ground up in the last six years,” said Demers.
“I know I’ll make a great city council member. I will focus efforts to positively impact Vernon’s growth with initiatives to develop our downtown core.”
Demers wants to bring Vernon’s downtown core into the 21st century, having business and commerce in tune with affordable high-rise living. He vows to work to pass budgets that improve infrastructure, existing facilities and attract new business to the city.
The people of Vernon deserve “honest, diligent representation.”
Which is what Teresa Durning intends to give.
She is committed to three main areas: Advocating for improved access to affordable housing within the city including families, seniors and people with diverse abilities; supporting initiatives that help Vernon reach its climate action plan goals including efforts to mitigate the impacts of climate change on our community; and collaborating with the business community to support resilience through the pandemic rebound and support initiatives that ensure future sustainability.
Durning is the vice-president of the Greater Vernon 2022 BC Winter Games.
‘Change’ is the operative word in Flora Evans’ campaign for City of Vernon councillor.
The former journalist and policy analyst is among the 11 candidates running in the city’s Dec. 4 byelection.
“Our city has challenges. We’re ‘still’ in a pandemic and our businesses and our youth are suffering from it; there’s a supply/labour shortage; the cost of living is out of reach for many, and there are historic heat waves and fires threatening our city. Raising city taxes in this environment will make things worse for many of us,” Evans said.
Evans says council needs more input from businesses, youth, seniors, people experiencing homelessness, minorities, and those who are feeling the heat from the past summer’s wildfires and the larger threat of climate change.
Sherrilee Franks is a 30-plus year resident of Vernon. She is an entrepreneur, real estate specialist and community advocate working to create positive change within the Greater Vernon community.
“I plan to support Vernon’s entrepreneurial community by leading progressive new policies that create opportunities for continued growth,” said Franks. “As a small business owner myself, I understand how hard local establishments have been hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. I also recognize they are vital to the success of Vernon’s economy.”
Franks’ various volunteer accomplishments include event managing for the Alzheimer’s Fundraiser and working as the vice-president of the North Okanagan Canada Day Society.
She is co-owner and managing broker of the successful local business Keystone Property Management, which includes projects such as Vernon’s Historic O’Keefe Ranch, local senior complex and other various investment properties.
Housing initiatives that make affordable/attainable housing achievable for all people of Vernon is another high priority.
Art Gourley is prepared to paint some support for seniors, and residents in general, around town.
The long-time painter, and local resident, wants to do some good for the community.
“Let’s make Vernon better,” said the senior who is “39 twice.”
And he has a list of how to do that, including free ambulance service for seniors, night-time council meetings, downtown specials for disabled individuals once a month, moving the airport and building high rise buildings in its place, relocating the lawn bowling club from Polson Park and putting an outdoor pool in its place, bringing Costco to town, look into a new car racing track, investigating the cleanliness of treated effluent going into Okanagan Lake, building a new city hall with the cultural centre and helping the homeless and drug addicts.
Stephanie Hendy is running in Vernon’s municipal byelection to bring more equity to the city, and to protect the environment in an area hit hard by wildfires this past summer.
Hendy says if elected, she will work hard to increase the equity for the citizens of Vernon, and work toward a just transition.
“For transportation, this would include supporting infrastructure to travel by foot, transit, or bicycle, and supporting a car share network,” she said.
She also supports the construction of temporary modular housing to adopt a Housing First model, building more cooperative rental housing, and starting a co-housing community.
Hendy is a kinesiologist and clinical exercise physiologist. She’s also a queer person with a disability “living a low to moderate income life,” she said at a recent all-candidates forum.
After two consecutive terms serving on Vernon council, Catherine Lord felt she needed a break.
So she didn’t let her name stand in the 2018 municipal election.
Now, with a seat left vacant by the death of Coun. Dalvir Nahal, and feeling refreshed, Lord is looking to return to council in the Dec. 4 byelection.
Lord says a priority for her right now is to keep Vernon moving forward, and to support the business community in its recovery from the COVID pandemic.
“We need to fine-tune the development process to encourage the construction industry, and above all we must push the message to ‘buy local.’ A community is strongest when it works together.”
Jamie Morrow grew up in Vernon, graduating from Vernon Secondary School and from the Vernon campus of Okanagan College. He considers himself a lifelong learner and recently completed his Masters of Business Administration program.
“I truly believe I have the experience, skills and background to be your councillor,” said Morrow in announcing his candidacy on his Facebook page. “Specifically related to municipal politics, I have previous council experience having served on council in the East Kootenays and was proud to contribute to my community through my position on council.
“I have more than 20 years of business management and leadership experience through my career with a number of diverse businesses including previously owning and operating two businesses in B.C.”
Morrow has worked at Okanagan College for the past 14 years.
Erik Olesen was one of the first to put his name in the hat, stemming from an early introduction to municipal government.
“I have always had a passion for politics,” said the Brantford, Ont., transplant.
“The first campaign I worked on was the mayor’s campaign in the City of Ottawa when I was 12 years old.”
He said his experience working with 10 political campaigns on all levels in several communities has equipped him with the tools to serve his community.
“My passion is to work on behalf of my community and listen to what my community needs,” he said.
“This is why I have taken the step to run for Vernon city council.”
Ed Stranks wants to give back to his community and work with council to create positive change.
The former city employee who worked more than 30 years in several capacities, including manager of engineering development, deputy approving officer and acting director of engineering, used to attend council meetings as part of his job requirement.
“In these positions I have been responsible for many large city projects, development projects and bylaw amendments,” said Stranks. “My knowledge, experience and drive to get results will assist council in dealing with hard issues and bringing visions to reality.”
Stranks said he’ll work with the rest of council and the community to provide more affordable and attainable housing. .
“My focus will be on reducing red tape for residential and commercial re-development. Reducing repeat variance applications, which staff support, by updating bylaws is one way that the development process can be expedited.”
Andrew Wylie is running for a seat on Vernon council, he says, “because our country needs to heal.”
Canada, says Wylie, will never become a complete country without reaching out to its First Nations brothers and sisters in a meaningful way.
To that end, Wylie is proposing the Kekuli Monument on the site of the former Vernon Civic Arena. Its design, he says, is a combination of the Acropolis in Athens and a traditional First Nations’ lodging.
“Canadian Democracy needs many equal sides that must all be respected. The Kekuli design, I feel, expresses that equality in a beautiful way,” said Wylie.
The former Civic Arena site, he says, is the last opportunity Vernon has to reinvigorate “our badly neglected downtown core,” and its concourse design is found at the heart of the great cities of the world.
“The city is planning to building another Polson Park design for the homeless north of the downtown effectively surrounding the DVA (Downtown Vernon Association) with the homeless,” he said.