Her new seat was where her late friend Dalvir Nahal – the woman she is replacing – sat on Vernon city council.
Her new desk was adorned with a flower bouquet in a vase, welcoming her to council.
With friends and family gathered in council chambers, Teresa Durning placed her right hand on a bible and was sworn into office as Vernon’s newest councillor Tuesday, Dec. 14 by chief election officer Keri-Ann Austin.
Durning fought back tears as she took the oath of office.
“I am excited to be joining the Vernon city council and look forward to being an active participant in decision-making together with being a voice for the citizens of Vernon,” said Durning.
The Greater Vernon B.C. Winter Games vice-president won an 11-person byelection to fill the seat vacated by Nahal’s death from cancer in September. Durning had made a promise to her friend to run for the seat in the event she didn’t survive her second term in office.
“On behalf of myself and council, I’d like to welcome Ms. Durning to her new position as city councillor,” said Mayor Victor Cumming. “We look forward to our time together as we all work to serve the citizens of Vernon over the next year.”
After the official ceremony, there was a special meeting of council dealing with appointments to various committees and organizations for the next year prior to municipal elections in 2022.
Durning, a former manager of the Vernon Tourism Information Centre, was appointed by Cumming to the city’s tourism commission. She will also be an alternate with the city’s biosolids advisory committee.
Away from city hall, Durning was originally appointed as Vernon Winter Carnival liaison, but Coun. Kari Gares said she wanted to stay in the position after receiving an email from the Winter Carnival asking her to stay on because the event is mere months away.
“I’m disappointed, but it makes perfect sense for Kari to continue on,” said Durning as the motion was granted. Durning and Gares will switch roles on the Arts Council of North Okanagan with Durning being the council rep and Gares the alternate.
Cumming had also appointed Durning as council’s representative to the Regional Advisory Committee with Gares as an alternate but because Durning is not a representative to the Regional District of North Okanagan, Gares becomes the council rep and Coun. Brian Quirning will be the alternate.
There was a bit of a debate on the appointment of Coun. Kelly Fehr as one of Vernon’s four reps to the RDNO board. Gares, who filled in for Nahal prior to and after her death, wanted to stay on RDNO for the next 10 months. Cumming had appointed Gares to the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee, something she has wanted since being elected in 2018.
“I think it’s important to have someone who is involved in mental health on a day-to-day basis as the RDNO will be dealing with one of the most critical things in 2022, an additional health facility at VJH where the purpose is to move all mental health issues to the new facility,” said Cumming. Fehr has been involved in mental health in Vernon for 15 years. Gares, a mortgage broker, has a psychology degree from university.
In the end, council voted 6-1 to allow Gares to remain on RDNO along with Cumming, Quiring and Coun. Akbal Mund. Only Cumming was opposed.
Cumming, Fehr and Mund will sit on the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee.
Municipal elections are set for Oct. 15, 2022.