Deputy Maple Ridge mayor position cancelled

Back to former system of three-month rotation of acting mayors

Coun. Tyler Shymkiw’s time as deputy mayor is over and Maple Ridge councillors will go back to a rotation where all six of them take their turn as acting mayor in the absence of Mayor Nicole Read.

The decision was made at Monday’s council workshop, with the four veteran councillors winning the decision over opposing votes of Read, Shymkiw and Kiersten Duncan.

Read expressed her frustration with the decision on Facebook:

“Gotta love politics. Because politics, and little else, led four members of council to quash the deputy mayor role yesterday. No discussion about its merits, how well it’s worked over the last six months, or its cost-effectiveness.”

Read said in an interview she will respect the decision of the majority of council, but said the matter should have been discussed based on its merits.

“There wasn’t any open minds or discussion about it,” she said.

Read said she has a business background, and that was one of the reasons she was elected.

“I get how to run efficiency and workload,” she said. “It has been valuable to have one point of contact, who I can keep updated, and have that person step in.”

Read said Shymkiw has performed well in the role, and having councillors take turn as deputy mayor is “not nearly as effective.” But some councillors felt they were being marginalized.

“I don’t like how it changed the dynamic on council,” said Coun. Craig Speirs.

“There are those who are in, those who are kind of in, and those who are out.”

He laughed at the mayor’s comments that the decision was strictly political.

“That’s kind of rich, coming from a politician,” he said.

“We can’t get our backs up too far – this is politics.”

“Everything the mayor does is politics. I think it’s a glorious pursuit, but it can get messy at times.”

Speirs said the acting mayor’s position could be changed to function more effectively, but he has always appreciated the broader view a councillor gets by functioning as acting mayor.

“I want to get back to that,” he said.

“The mayor has to work with everybody – you can’t pick and choose.”

Coun. Corisa Bell said councillors were always dubious about Maple Ridge having a deputy mayor, which is more commonly a position found only in large cities. She opposed it from the outset, but councillors agreed to give it a six-month trial.

Bell said she was “absolutely shocked,” by Read’s Facebook post.

“It’s not something I would expect to see coming from a mayor,” she said.

Most other Fraser Valley councils also have a rotation, and it offers valuable experience in public appearances and regional committees for members of council.

While holding the office, the acting mayor earns 20 per cent of the mayor’s salary of $100,000, on top of the salary of $43,000 for council members.

That’s about $3,300 for a two-month term, and Shymkiw had been getting that extra money.

“That doesn’t make a difference to me,” said Bell.

“Doing what’s best for the city is the most important thing.”

Coun. Gordy Robson said councillors were promised that they could review the position in June, but that was never done. It was his motion on Monday that brought the matter to the table.

Read responded that councillors were away last month, so the review of the deputy mayor was not put on the agenda.

Robson said the deputy mayor gets to know more, and gets to conduct more city business than other councillors. He said the financial considerations may also be an issue for some members of council.

The deputy mayor might also have a higher profile in the eyes of voters at election time, said Robson, giving the position a political advantage over other councillors. Coun. Bob Masse said he was originally swayed to have a deputy mayor because there was no CAO in place when the position was created, and he felt the mayor needed more support. Now that’s not a problem, he said.

The mayor said councillors must be available to do the work.

Masse, who runs a chiropractic practice, said he can fulfill the role as long as he is given advance notice before public appearances.

“It has always worked out over my past three rotations as acting mayor,” said Masse.

Councillors did not disparage the job Shymkiw has done.

“Tyler is a real standup kind of guy,” said Speirs.

“I like his approach.”

“I have no criticism of the job Coun. Shymkiw has done as deputy mayor,” echoed Masse.

“It’s a question of which system better suits the community.”

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