It’s the beginning of a new chapter for the Jumbo Glacier Resort project, and the Province of British Columbia has chosen three valley residents to lead the way.
Former Village of Radium Hot Springs mayor Greg Deck will serve as mayor and Nancy Hugunin and Steve Ostrander will serve as councillors, while former town of Golden chief administrative officer Phil Taylor will be the municipality’s interim corporate officer.
“I’ve been urging the province to finish this process for a long time, and when the province says, ‘We’re ready to take the next step, are you ready to be part of that and help?’, it’s hard not to contribute when you’re asking people to do something as well,” Deck told The Valley Echo.
The inaugural council will have a number of responsibilities when they first convene on February 19, 2013. Aside from attempting to develop a resort that focuses on the needs of a population that has yet to arrive, council will also have to give strong consideration to the environmental and aboriginal concerns that have held the project back for so many years.
“I think that it’s very, very important that the mayor and the two councillors who I have appointed have nothing to do with the resort development, they have no business ties to the resort proponent, and they will not be allowed to do business with this project on a personal level,” said Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development Bill Bennett. “They will be under the same restrictions and limitations
that any other mayor and council would be under based on our legislation in this province.”
Selection of council members was based on several suitability factors including local government experience and knowledge of the region, and the term of the appointments is from February 19, 2013 to November 30, 2014.
The background of each of the council members varies, although they all share the common thread of being long-time East Kootenay residents. Deck was the first mayor of Radium Hot Springs when it was incorporated in December of 1990, and served for 18 years until retiring in 2008. Deck has also served as the chair for the Regional District of East Kootenay for six years, and continues to sit on the board of the Columbia Basin Trust. A long-time supporter of the project since his days as Radium mayor, Deck said no one benefits from the project being rushed along, and that his job as mayor will be to respect the issues and aspirations of his future residents.
Deck likened any potential developments to a cruise ship, where the environment flows by with the least possible amount of interaction by humans.
“There are a whole bunch of requirements, more than any other municipality I know, that will have to be met that come from the environmental assessment certificate,” Deck said. “Those have to be carefully adhered to, and I think adhering to those carefully will minimize what is one of the most controversial issues up there, which is human-wildlife conflict. It’s important to try and design a community from the very start that minimizes those conflicts, and if you build that into the original design you’ll be saving everybody a lot of grief for a very long time.”
Deck acknowledges that without any constituents’ needs to address, the focus of the council will be almost entirely on long-term planning, and said it was important that council balance the needs of the short-term with long-term efficiency. He said that by no means does he want to see sprawling suburbs in Jumbo, but would instead aim for something akin to the walled villages of northern Italy and southern France.
“I think that a really well-run, value-added high quality tourism resource is important to the province,” Deck said. “ … I have very high hopes that a resort as unusual as Jumbo… that has that kind of profile, and has the ability to attract people from much farther than our traditional markets to this region, and I see that as a relatively virtuous circle.”
Hugunin, a Columbia Valley resident for the past 35 years, feels her experience in the business world is part of the reason she was selected to join council. Hugunin is the co-owner and operator of a construction company and two restaurants, and is a former president of the Windermere Valley Ski Club.
For the last five years Hugunin has also worked with regional and provincial agencies regarding subdivision consulting and infrastructure approvals. She said she’s always been supportive of the concept of a ski resort in Jumbo, and would like to play a positive role in any future developments.
“I really feel like a strong economy here is what helps us pay for all the other things we want,” said Hugunin. “I’ve had lots of people support me in my life, and I just wanted to support free enterprise.”
Former David Thompson Secondary School graduate Ostrander earned a degree in forestry from the University of British Columbia before returning to Invermere to work as a professional forester. For the past 30 years, Ostrander has been employed locally at all levels of forest planning and management while working at various times for the provincial government and the forest industry.
Since retiring in 2008, Ostrander continues to work part time as a forest management consultant and as a board member for a number of volunteer organizations, including the Columbia Valley Food Bank, the Lake Windermere District Lions’ Club, and the Columbia Headwaters Community Forest Initiative. Ostrander said he feels that his experience with forestry and land use issues will help him in his new role as councillor, and added that he wants to see a project that will attract tourism and jobs to the valley.
“I’ve been familiar with the project for a long time, and I’ve always viewed it in shades of grey, not sort of black and white,” Ostrander said. “I’m hoping that I have a positive impact on the whole outcome, but I’m not so naive to think that it’s not going to be a challenge.”
New interim corporate officer Phil Taylor brings a wealth of experience to his new role. A Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy qualified accountant with over 32 years experience in the local government sector, including nearly 20 years at the senior strategic
management and corporate level, Taylor has worked primarily for smaller communities, and most recently for the town of Golden. Taylor is retired and said he has no plans to get back into full-time work, but that should council still feel like he was the best choice for the role once his 12-week appointment is up, he would likely return if needed.
“The draft that they provided me, I felt I had the skills to be able to do it properly, legally, and to protect the public interest,” Taylor said. “Basically, it’s an honour to be chosen because it doesn’t come around very often in your career.”