New Barriere mayor cautions restraint

Barriere's new mayor said Sunday he hopes 2012 will be a "year of semi-restraint" as he leads the municipality to take a second look at council's recent directions.

Bill Humphreys defeated incumbent mayor Mike Fennell 351-292. Fennell was the municipality's first-ever mayor after it was incorporated in 2007.

"Mike was spending a ton of money on economic development at Tolko (former Tolko Industries mill site)," Humphreys said. "For now we'll let that run its courseâ. (But) there are other proposals in town that will be developed."

Fennell's campaign was rocked this month when he acknowledged he lost his right to drive after failing an RCMP roadside screening.

"What's happened to me is in large part my fault," Fennell said Sunday, acknowledging the incident hurt him despite his public apology and admission that he made a mistake.

Fennell said a spat between the municipality and local chamber of commerce over economic development also cost him some popularity.

But he continues to believe that developing the former Tolko mill site as an industrial area owned by the municipality will produce jobs - if the new council doesn't abandon the effort.

"My biggest fear is this present council moving Barriere forward. We've put Barriere on the map in B.C. and in Asia. I'm fearful that may not continue."

The number of residents who cast a ballot in Barriere was down by more than a third from the inaugural election in 2007.

Humphreys attributed his success to meetings with small groups of voters and his willingness to listen to their concerns.

The retired project manager, who moved back to Barriere two years ago after spending his early childhood there, said he wants to refocus efforts to retain and attract small business as well as undertake a safety review and revitalization of Barriere's downtown.

Another new face on Barriere's council is a longtime active community member.

Bill Kershaw served as a rural representative in Barriere before it became a municipality. He was among those critical of the municipality's removal of an economic development contract with Barriere Chamber of Commerce.

"We've had two small businesses open up in the past couple months," said Humphreys.

"Let's carry on with that success."

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