‘Fresh thinking’ on new Maple Ridge council

Kiersten Duncan and Tyler Shymkiw voted to council, both still in their 20s.

Kiersten Duncan and Gordy Robson were elected to council

Kiersten Duncan and Gordy Robson were elected to council

If someone was trying to find the ultimate combination of youthful energy and sage experience, covering the whole political spectrum to run Maple Ridge, they might have come up with the current group elected on Saturday.

“I think it’s great we have elected officials under the age of 30,” said Corisa Bell, elected for a second term.

“It’s a very good mix of different individuals, for sure.”

She was referring to Kiersten Duncan and Tyler Shymkiw, both students, both voted on to council for the first time and both still in their 20s.

That youth is balanced out by veterans Gordy Robson, a former Maple Ridge mayor who was voted in as councillor, and Craig Speirs, elected for a fifth term on council.

Bell along with Bob Masse were returned to serve their second terms rounding out the six councillors elected while mayor-elect Nicole Read arrives with no council experience.

Bell said the community has spoken in favour of a new way of running council.

“I do believe that past councils and staff were most definitely doing their best.

“But when you have new people around the table with new things to offer, it’s time to do things differently.”

She said she was excited to work with the new mayor-elect Read.

“Just new leadership – fresh thinking.”

Bell wants to focus on property taxes and budgets and still wants Maple Ridge to go through a zero-based budgeting exercise in which expenses and costs are examined line by line.

During the campaign, she did some door-to-door campaigning with Sara Dawn Beckett and one day of campaigning with Craig Ruthven. Beckett just missed being elected, finishing seventh in the race for six council seats.

That doesn’t mean Bell was part of a slate, just that she worked during the campaign with candidates who had similar views. “I ran completely independently and will continue to do so.”

Shymkiw said he also knocked on lots of doors. He said his election win on to council, in which he took 6,133 votes, wasn’t a surprise.

“We were confident we were going to be in the top eight.

“We were getting a really good response on the door steps. We felt we were in the mix for sure.”

Shymkiw is a SFU political science student seeking a PhD. He ran Pitt Meadows Mayor Deb Walters’ successful campaign in 2011.

Speirs also was put back on to council after a three-year break and said the absence helped him appreciate the tough job councillors have. Maple Ridge councillors current salary is about $43,000 a year, while the mayor makes just under $100,000.

“Hopefully, I would have three other votes to allow me to move my issues forward. I think everybody agrees that the homeless issue has to be addressed.”

He supports mayor-elect Read’s plan to create a task force on homelessness.

“I just want to have a real positive start and the way to do that is with common goals.”

Speirs said he didn’t notice any alliances during the campaign and he likes the new faces on council.

Even the candidates who didn’t get elected impressed Speirs. His advice to those people is to keep involved in local politics.

“Don’t go away. The way to move yourself forward is to get yourself known before the election. There’s community work that needs to be done.”

He’ll also miss the departing councillors, Cheryl Ashlie, Judy Dueck, who didn’t seek re-election, and Al Hogarth and Mayor Ernie Daykin. “It’s really a tough job. I’m going to miss Ernie because he’s a real solid guy.”

Hogarth placed 10th in the running for a council seat while Daykin finished third, after Michael Morden, as Daykin tried for a third term as mayor.

The election results also puts Speirs on council with former rival Robson.

Another councillor likely will be sitting between the two at the table, Speirs noted.

“Electing both of us proves to me that voters have a sense of humour.”