Regional Rundown: RDEK celebrates 50 years

As an RDEK director, I have learned a good deal about B.C.’s regional district governance and why it is often cited as a model

As an RDEK director, I have learned a good deal about B.C.’s regional district governance and why it is often cited as a model for other jurisdictions throughout North America — but it is good people who make a good concept work.

In my limited tenure, I have been fortunate to work with many staff who keep the RDEK running so well. Almost all of these people have been recruited directly or indirectly by RDEK CAO Lee-Ann Crane, who will be retiring in the spring after 35 years with the RDEK and 17 years as CAO. A remarkable woman, Lee-Ann has guided the staff and board with firm managerial skill and with an innate sense of respect, empathy and personal responsibility.

On November 30th, 2015, the RDEK celebrated its 50th anniversary. Following our regular meetings in Cranbrook, the board, staff, former chairs and other dignitaries convened for a celebration dinner and social evening. There were several speeches that provided glimpses into significant moments or memories over the past 50 years.

In 1975, my wife and I bought our property in Edgewater. Like many other non-residents, it was often difficult to appreciate the concept of regional districts. That changed for the better when we moved here permanently 20 years later and integrated into the Columbia Valley, meeting many good people and new friends, among whom were my predecessors as directors of Area G.

Margrit Thierbach was the electoral area director for Area G for many years. Behind her imposing presence was a heart of gold. She stood her fiscally prudent ground, helping people get through tough times. Her successor, Klara Trescher, had a natural affinity for the environment. She understood land use issues and worked tirelessly with rural people, supporting their values. She oversaw the relatively smooth transition of the Edgewater Improvement District services into the RDEK. Both Margrit and Klara were very helpful to me when I was elected in 2008. I also got to know Eric Rasmussen, who was the director of Area G in the ‘70s. Eric has an encyclopedic knowledge of the land base in the Columbia Valley and was appointed to the steering committee that worked on the establishment of the recent RDEK Agricultural Plan.

There have been many changes over the past 50 years, and I believe we are well-positioned heading into the future.

The five Columbia Valley RDEK Directors — Ute Juras, Wendy Booth, Gerry

Taft, Clara Reinhardt and I — work well together and with the rest of the RDEK Board. Area C director, Rob Gay, is a capable chair. He has just been re-elected as chair for 2016, while Area F director Wendy Booth was re-elected vice chair.

Happy 50th anniversary RDEK!

Gerry Wilkie is the Regional District of East Kootenay director for Area G, and can be reached at