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Decades of experience leaves Kamloops City Hall after final council meeting

The incoming council, which has three incumbents and six new members — including Mayor-elect Reid Hamer-Jackson — will meet for the first time on Nov. 1
city hall

Decades of local political experience has left council chambers at Kamloops City Hall following the Oct. 15 election of a new mayor and council.

Tuesday, Oct. 18, marked the final council meeting for a majority of those who have served the city over the past four years.

Coun. Dale Bass thanked Mayor Ken Christian, who is retiring, for his many years in public service and called him the “right mayor” for the “right time.”

Christian led the city through a global pandemic, the announcement of suspected graves on Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc land, a spending scandal at the Thompson-Nicola Regional District, street disorder, the Snowbirds plane crash, a deadly heat dome, fires (including one in his neighbourhood) and floods.

Outgoing councillors offered emotional departing words. Dieter Dudy praised the qualities of each of his council colleagues, while Sadie Hunter said she looks forward to finding a new way to serve the city. Denis Walsh congratulated the new council members and mayor.

The newly elected mayor and five newly elected councillors were invited by the outgoing council to attend Tuesday’s final council meeting of the term.

All five incoming council members — Nancy Bepple, Kelly Hall, Stephen Karpuk, Margot Middleton and Katie Neustaeter — attended and sat in the gallery. Mayor-elect Hamer-Jackson did not.

Outgoing Coun. Arjun Singh said he still has optimism for Kamloops, despite disenchantment in the community. He also apologized to council colleagues for “any action of mine” that worsened relationships, which he said were strained during the term. He said the city doesn’t function without the work of city staff and advised the new council: “Change needs to happen fast, but not by blowing up all the relationships and structures.”

Those comments were made amidst a backdrop of perceived pressure from the incoming mayor, who, before and during the election campaign, criticized some city management.

The city’s CAO, David Trawin noted the loss of 50 years of experience, with six of nine local politicians departing from council.

Before Christian was first elected mayor in the 2017 byelection, he served as a city councillor since 2011 and, for nearly two decades before that, sat on the Kamloops-Thompson school board. He also chaired the Thompson Regional Hospital District and was a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board.

Singh was the longest-serving city councillor, with more than 13 years on council, in addition to time on the TNRD, Union of BC Municipalities and Federation of Canadian Municipalities boards.

Dudy, Hunter, Kathy Sinclair and Walsh take with them several terms of experience.

“That’s amazing,” Christian said. “Fifty years experience walking out the door. Who says we don’t want change?”

Five out of nine on the incoming council, including the mayor, will be new to municipal politics.

Ahead of the Oct. 15 election, Christian, Sinclair and Walsh announced they would not seek re-election. Dudy, Hunter and Singh all lost their seats around the horseshoe in vying for the mayor’s chair. They were defeated by Hamer-Jackson.

The new city council will have a total of 18 years’ experience. Former councillor Nancy Bepple was re-elected and previously served on council for six years, while incumbent councillors Bass, Mike O’Reilly and Bill Sarai return with one term (four years each) each under their belts.

Trawin said he is looking forward to working with the new council, noted he will be in Ottawa with Tk’emlúps te Secwépemec administration for a presentation on reconciliation when the new council is sworn in on Nov. 1.

In addition to a shift in leadership at city hall, there will also be a change at the local RCMP detachment.

Kamloops RCMP Supt. Syd Lecky was at council on Tuesday in advance of his transfer to Yellowknife, where he will be in charge of policing in the Northwest Territories. Insp. Jeff Pelley has been selected as the new officer in charge of the local detachment and will assume the superintendent’s office next week.

Voters across British Columbia opted for change on Oct. 15, with many incumbent mayors losing their seats, including Santo Talarico in Cache Creek, Linda Brown in Merritt, Colin Basran in Kelowna and Kennedy Stewart in Vancouver.