The winds of change will be blowing in the distance when Vanderhoof residents head to the polls during the October 15th municipal election.
That’s because Gerry Thiessen who has been the District’s mayor since 2008 decided to end his tenure after a 14-year-run, electing to spend more time with friends and family.
In an interview with Vista Radio, Thiessen stated it was time to put those who matter most to him at the top of his priority list.
“My wife, my children, my grandchildren, and my great-granddaughter, all live in Vanderhoof and they have all taken second place sometimes even when I have tried to make them a priority. I need to go back to that again.”
“I also need to be a better friend. I have had a lot of friends who have supported me really hard over the last 20 years that I have been involved in some form of elected politics and thing is, I could certainly use being a better friend.”
Out of the many highlights during his time in the mayor’s chair, putting the wheels in motion for the community’s brand new aquatic centre was a major accomplishment.
“We went through a pool referendum about 10 years ago and that was important in developing the recreation in our community and now we have a recreation corridor because of it.”
The Vanderhoof Aquatic Centre finally opened to the public in January of 2019 after running into a few minor delays during the construction process.
Back in June, a first-of-its-kind housing development for seniors as well as those who require on-site dementia care support opened in the community.
Located at 2657 Church Ave., Parkview Place is a three-story building with 20 one-bedroom rental homes for seniors with low to moderate incomes.
In addition, a newly licensed dementia care facility, named Aurora Homes, will operate out of the building’s ground floor and provide an additional eight accessible studio units for patients.
Despite the progress made on some forms of housing, Thiessen wishes more could have been done to accelerate development – citing government red tape as a constant stumbling block.
“We need to make sure that we somehow address whatever that block is that is holding up housing. We have a permissive tax exemption on new housing where they receive a break over a five-year period to try and encourage housing but there is still a lot of provincial legislation that really restricts small communities.”
“A lot of people in our area don’t build houses as a way of making a living, they build houses so that they could live in them for the future. So, we didn’t have the leaky condo, which Vancouver or Victoria had about 20 to 25 years ago. A lot of the restrictions that government has put in are good restrictions for Vancouver, Victoria and those surrounding areas where they have a different climate and concerns than what we have in rural communities.”
Thiessen admits while the mayor’s chair in Vanderhoof doesn’t hold a lot of power within the provincial scope of things, the role still allows you to stand up and be an advocate for the community.
“I am touching close to 70 and I have done 14 years – that’s 20% of your life. When you are the mayor of a town, you ache for your community, you stay awake at night worried about the implications of decisions made that make for jobs.”
“As I said, you don’t have a lot of power, but, you have plenty of room to be an advocate,” added Thiessen.
Furthermore, Thiessen thought the time was right not just for him to step away, but for the district to elect a new voice.
“The town of Vanderhoof deserves a new focus. Certainly, depending on each candidate’s personality you advocate for things that you see and visualize and have a passion for. I think the town deserves a new passion.”
“I had accomplished many of the things I had set out to do and our community has thrived over the last 14 years. Fortunately, our sawmills are active and our relationships with first nations are stronger. I have had the privilege of being the mayor for 14 years and many of the courses we go to say 10 years is kind of that magic number.”
“Certainly, I was given one more term on top of that,” added Thiessen.
George Funk, Ken Holden, and Kevin Moutray are the three candidates vying for the mayor’s chair in Vanderhoof.