After 17 years, Lake Country has a new mayor.
Two-term councillor Blair Ireland has been acclaimed mayor of the district after his lone challenger in the mayoral race dropped out of the running last week.
Long-time Lake Country mayor James Baker, who's been mayor since 2005, opted not to run for re-election this year, and Ireland and Barry Rhodes initially stepped up to run. Rhodes finished a close second to Baker in the mayoral race four years ago.
But Ireland says Rhodes phoned him Thursday afternoon to inform him he was dropping out of the race for “personal reasons.”
“We had quite a lengthy conversation, and I committed to having a meeting with him when I got back,” Ireland said. “He was a real gentleman about it.”
Having served as councillor in Lake Country for the past eight years, Ireland is the second most-experienced candidate running in the district this year, behind long-time councillor Bill Scarrow.
Ireland says one of the district's big issues moving into the next four years is ensuring there are enough planners on staff to handle the number of projects coming through. He is also prioritizing the district's communication with the public.
“Just trying to be more customer-service orientated ... trying to communicate better, trying to help the department's function better, try to get the public to understand what the real challenges are,” Ireland said. “Just try to build a better community.”
He also noted the district will have to contend with the future environmental impacts of climate change.
“Mitigation efforts, greening the community a little bit more, working with developers ... why don't we try to work together better to create a greener community?” Ireland said.
Ireland recently returned from the Union of BC Municipalities convention in Whistler, where he and a couple fellow councillors spoke to the province's ministers about the pressing issues facing Lake Country.
“We need financial help, if we are going to achieve any affordable housing we need the province to come to the table with us,” Ireland said.
He also noted safety concerns about the intersection of Crystal Waters Road and Highway 97, calling it “terrifying.”
“It's been a lot of talking for a week ... we were pretty successful I think,” Ireland said.
According to the CBC, 37 other mayoral candidates across B.C. automatically won the mayor's seat in their communities.
In Lake Country, incumbent Cara Reed has been also been acclaimed as Ward Councillor for Carr's Landing, while incumbent Todd McKenzie has been acclaimed as Ward Councillor for Oyama. Incumbent Lake Country school trustee Amy Geistlinger also ran unopposed.
This leaves Michael Lewis, Bib Patel and incumbent Bill Scarrow battling it out for the two Councillor at Large positions. Tricia Brett and Riley Hastings are running for the one Ward Councillor position for Okanagan Centre, Ireland's former role, while Heather Irvine and incumbent Jeremy Kozub are running for the lone Ward Councillor spot for Winfield.
The municipal election takes place Oct. 15.