Merritt residents head to polls next week to pick new city councillor

Council byelection nears

There are four people in the running to fill a vacant seat on Merritt’s city council in an upcoming byelection, and the votes will be counted in a little more than a week.

Advanced voting has already taken place and Merrittonians head to the polls on Saturday, April 20.

Yvette Baxter, Peter Coghill, Norma Jean Littleton and Michael Phillips are all vying to replace Coun. Claire Newman, who died in a hit-and-run collision on Highway 16 near Valemount last summer.

Whoever gets the most votes will serve the remaining 18 months of the council term, ending in November of 2026.

Baxter said she’s running to help her community while Coghill said he’s doing so to be involved in city and bring “a new set of eyes” to local issues. Littleton said she wants to support Mayor Mike Goetz and Phillips said he feels the city needs a “common sense approach” to city decisions.

The issues

Baxter listed two main things she wants to address if elected — working closer with area First Nations, and to secure grant funding for flood recovery and what’s been allocated to the community theatre program remains in place.

Coghill, 62, said the main issue he wants to tackle is revitalizing the community, bringing together non-profit, for-profit, and First Nations to work together to make Merritt a better place for the younger generation.

“Being the voice of the people of Merritt,” Coghill said is how he intends to achieve revitalization.

Littleton, a retired teacher and senior, has myriad issues she’d like to take on. She said she’d like to know more about any authority the city has over the local school district, secure more groundwater to assist watering restrictions and find out if Merritt has a historical society through which the city can offer incentives to rehabilitate old historical buildings in town — or issue fines if they do not.

Littleton said there are still people displaced from their homes by the November 2021 flood that she hopes to find ways to support via council. She said she’d also like to explore opening up a sewage plant in partnership with the area First Nations.

Phillips, 47, a former web designer, is focused on addressing Merritt’s aging infrastructure.

He said, as a town of only 8,000 people, it will take time to secure government grants and get projects built. He said he wants to make sure the city is “on the right track” when it comes to solving the infrastructure problem, and look to reduce expenses from Merritt’s multiple municipal facilities, such as its compost plant. He said those saved dollars could then be spent on infrastructure projects.

About the candidates

Baxter, Littleton and Phillips ran for council in 2022.

Baxter, who was born and raised in Merritt, works for School District 58 as a teacher’s aide.

Coghill moved to Merritt six years ago from the Lower Mainland. The retiree has worked in the logging industry and hazardous waste removal and recycling.

Littleton was born in Ottawa and has called Merritt home the last four years. She is a Christian counsellor, author and artist.

Phillips, who is originally from Lytton and currently lives on disability, has lived in Merritt since 2019.

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