Come December, the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board will elect its chairperson for the coming year. You might ask, “Why should I care? Those guys don’t do anything important.” But stay with me.
The incumbent chairman, Randy Murray, is from the Nicola Valley. He’ll have at least one challenger in Ken Christian, the Kamloops councillor likely to be on the mayoral ballot a few years hence.
(Christian acknowledges he aspires to be mayor, but says he won’t go for it in next year’s civic election, especially if Peter Milobar runs again.)
The regional chairperson is picked by directors, not the public, and it’s usually by acclamation. Candidates approach the other directors and gauge their support, do the math and, if the numbers aren’t there, quietly drop out.
Cache Creek Mayor John Ranta, for example, perennially expresses an interest and then withdraws if the unofficial votes don’t add up. Four times, he’s gotten the needed backing and let his name stand.
Christian has started having those conversations with other directors. He used the recent Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Vancouver to approach several, including Murray himself. He talked with others at last week’s official opening of the Heffley Creek eco-depot, and will continue to make the rounds.
Christian says he’s receiving “a generally mixed response.”
He’s also talked to other Kamloops councillors who sit on the TNRD, and since the City has six of the 26 seats on the board, he should have a good base of support.
That often isn’t enough, though. When it comes to deciding the chairperson, where you hail from plays a major role.
The regional board includes three main interest groups — rural directors, Kamloops council directors, and mayors from other towns in the district.
The mayors of towns like Cache Creek, Merritt and Logan Lake tend to align with the rural directors philosophically.
And, philosophically, non-Kamloops directors correctly point out that the regional district’s main job is to provide services in rural areas. On the other hand, Kamloops taxpayers pay roughly 60 per cent of the regional budget by virtue of population.
Christian doesn’t think that divide will be a barrier to his chances. “I have never felt it,” he says of sensitivity around the Kamloops issue.
Still, it’s not often that a member of Kamloops council is allowed into the chair. Peter Milobar did it for three years, but a growing perception on the board that it was time for
another rural chairperson coincided with his decision two years ago not to run again.
Why does any of it matter?
Because, while the regional board doesn’t have the profile Kamloops council does, it governs an area of 45,000 sq. km., provides more than 100 services including a library system, planning, garbage collection, fire and water, and lobbies on issues like Hydro rates, hospitals and transit.
It’s important, and picking the person in the chair matters. Some say it’s only fair to rotate the chair between a Kamloops director and a non-Kamloops one.
With Murray completing only his second year heading up the board, though, rural directors might think it’s too soon to hand the chair back to Kamloops.