Fresh faces dominate District of Invermere council

Voters in Saturday's local government elections have returned one incumbent councillor to her seat, and added three new faces to the table.

Clockwise from top left: Greg Anderson

Clockwise from top left: Greg Anderson

It’s a new look for the District of Invermere council.

Voters in Saturday’s local government elections have returned one incumbent councillor to her seat, and added three new faces to the table.

Spring Hawes, one of only two female candidates on this year’s 10-person slate and the only returning councillor, led the pack with 571 votes, according to preliminary election results.

She’ll be joined by newcomers Justin Atterbury, Greg Anderson and Paul Denchuk, who picked up 559, 556 and 528 votes, respectively.

“It was nice, but it did surprise me,” said Hawes of her strong showing, which she attributes in part to the familiarity with local issues she gained on council.

“I think I just tried to be realistic and honest and clear with my intentions and my ideas,” she adds.

Though she’s now the most experienced of the four councillors, Hawes says she doesn’t expect her role on council to change too much and adds she’s excited by the choices made by the voting public.

“I don’t know all of them well, but I get the feeling they’ll be a dynamic group of people that really want to do some interesting things,” she says.

“It appears to me to be a really well-rounded, interesting, motivated group of people on council and I think that could be quite exciting for Invermere.”

Other councillors-elect say they’re also feeling good about the mix of interests represented by the new group.

“I’m stoked,” says Atterbury, who co-owns several local businesses including the Rocky River Grill and believes that small business background worked to his advantage in the campaign.

“There was a really good group of 10 running, so it’s hard not to get a good group out of those. With the guys we have, I think it’s going to be awesome.”

“I think the voters made some good choices,” adds former school board trustee Greg Anderson.

“I think it’s a pretty eclectic mix of councillors, so on balance I think it’s going to be a very strong council.”

Though this is Anderson’s fifth local election cycle, it’s the first in which he’s actually campaigned. He was acclaimed to the School District 6 board four times.

“This has been a major learning experience. I took a lot away from it,” he says, adding that — like Hawes — he feels his previous local government experience may have given him extra clout with voters.

Looking at the council overall, newcomer Paul Denchuk has his own theory about what shaped the community’s decision.

“I think they were responding to the last boom that we had,” says the self-employed carpenter and civil engineering technologist.

“Even though we’re in a downturn in the economy, I think people did not like what happened during the boom. They did not like the development that they saw, it wasn’t well thought out.”

The four councillors will sit down for their first strategic planning session with returning mayor Gerry Taft in mid-December, and several are already formulating plans for their first actions of the term.

“I think we have to learn process, we have to find out what’s on the plate of the current council, and then start turning our minds to working forward with that and also looking at other options,” says Anderson.

Denchuk, meanwhile, hopes to see the district revisit and update its Official Community Plan.

“I don’t think even this council has a mandate to move this town forward until we get that,” he says.

Hawes also has what she calls a “visionary project” she hopes to bring forward in her second term.

“The idea I’ve floated around is the idea of a convention centre in Invermere, and that’s something that would need to be fleshed out and I would have to talk to lots of people about that,” she says.

Of the remaining six candidates who didn’t get in, Dale Wilker was closest to the pack with 512 votes. Two-term councillor Ray Brydon received 407, Dave McGrath 326, Richard Unger 289, Rob Dunn 195 and Stephanie Stevens 152.