On Monday, November 9, candidates for mayor of Invermere faced some of their toughest questions yet—and ironically, they came from constituents that for the most part are unable to vote.
Mayoral candidate Al Miller and current mayor Gerry Taft visited David Thompson Secondary School for a forum where student moderators asked the two candidates a number of surprisingly hard-hitting questions. Among the issues raised by students: candidates’ views on the Jumbo Glacier, the ongoing deer problem, and why the other candidate would make a better mayor.
“Gerry has had a three year head start,” Miller said in response. “While we do have differences of opinion, I do think he’s made a good mayor.”
“Al probably looks more the average age of mayors in B.C.,” quipped Taft. “He might not get as many weird looks at conferences.”
Jokes aside, the candidates began the forum by outlining their platform to those students in attendance. Taft began by saying that he thought he had done good work over the last three years, and was looking to continue many of the projects he had been a part of implementing during his time a mayor. Taft also mentioned how he and council had reduced municipal debt and improved the hospital emergency room, and spoke of his desire to increase regional co-operation and to diversify the economy in Invermere.
The floor was then passed to Miller, who — while agreeing with many of Taft’s points regarding economic diversification — said that he wanted to create a great future for Invermere. A recurring theme for Miller seemed to be pushing for cultural expansion in Invermere, along with now-familiar themes of economic development.
“We have to utilize the resources that we have in the community,” Miller said. “Jobs are very important in the valley, and with the mill in Radium closing we may have to find new ways of doing business.”
While many answers were similar, when candidates were asked what they thought they could offer the community there were some decidedly different responses.
“I truly know family life, and I think I understand the needs and wants of families,” Miller said. “We need to give people more options to work and play in Invermere.”
Taft, having been on council for the past nine years, the last three as mayor, Taft noted his direct experience as mayor, calling time spent on council, “a completely different animal,” than his role as mayor.
“I want to use the skills I have learned over the last three years,” Taft said. “Being mayor has given me a great sense of perspective not only on Invermere, but on the valley as a whole.”
Both candidates described their desire to see more tourism in Invermere, to cull problem deer, and offered their differing views on Jumbo, with Taft being against the Jumbo resort and Miller in favour. As the class came to an end, each candidate was finally asked to give their closing statements.
“I have a true passion to be mayor,” Miller said. “I feel like this is the natural next step for me, and I think I would truly enjoy the challenge of becoming mayor.”
“I’ve been effective, accessible, available and approachable (during my tenure as mayor),” Taft said. “We live in a great place, and I want to continue to move forward in incremental steps.”