Haida Gwaiians got plenty of change Oct. 20, and they outvoted most of B.C. to do it.
The islands now have a trio of new or newly returning mayors — Kris Olsen in Queen Charlotte, Barry Pages in Masset, and Doug Daugert in Port Clements.
In rural Graham Island, voters elected a new regional district director, Johanne Young, and Moresby Island chose a newly returning one, Evan Putterill.
At the school board, too, there is almost wholesale change, with just one of the five trustees returning from last term. Newly elected trustees Roeland Denooij, Dana Moraes, Julia Breese, Patrick Moores, and Wilson Brown will also be working with a brand-new superintendent.
Voter turnout for last Saturday’s election ranged from 41 per cent in Masset to 48 per cent in Port Clements and a most engaging 62 per cent in Queen Charlotte — well beyond the B.C. average of 36 per cent.
“I’m proud of our community,” said Kris Olsen, who will be sworn in as mayor of Queen Charlotte on Nov. 5 along with councillors Lisa Pineault, Jesse Embree, Devin Rachar, and Richard Decembrini.
“I love that people exercise their democratic right,” Olsen said. “We participate, and we’re lucky, very lucky.”
In fact, Olsen’s big goal as mayor looks beyond the village. He wants to get all of Haida Gwaii’s elected leaders meeting regularly in one room again, Haida and non-Haida alike.
“I’ve always pushed island pride, island wide,” said Olsen, who previously served three terms as councillor and also worked as a teen centre coordinator, where he helped organize a teen relay run from the poles in Old Massett all the way to Sandspit.
“I used to get kids to run from one end of the island to the other — groups of kids because individually you can’t do it, but together you can accomplish what seems to be impossible.”
Likewise, Olsen campaigned on a pledge to work closely with Skidegate on plans to finally treat Queen Charlotte’s wastewater. And like Evan Putterill of Sandspit, he also made it a priority to come up with a new wildfire plan.
“The truth is, we had a major fire in 1846 and it burned a large portion of Graham Island,” he said.
“We have a history, even though it’s not a part of our natural disturbance regime. Fires aren’t normal here, but weather is changing.”
In Masset, voters elected Barry Pages as mayor and Terry Carty, Bret Johnston, Robert Morton and Regina Williams as councillors.
In the lead-up to the election, Pages and more than one of the councillor candidates said affordable housing should be a priority issue for Masset — as in Queen Charlotte, a housing-needs assessment will have to be done before the village gets on BC Housing’s list for social housing.
First-time councillor Regina Williams and returning councillor Bret Johnston also highlighted better recreation options as a goal for the next term.
In Port Clements, Doug Daugert was acclaimed as mayor, and voters chose Kazamir Falconbridge, Brigid Cumming, Ian Gould and Teri Kish as councillors. All but Kish have served on council before.
In Sandspit, Evan Putterill said he will spend the next few weeks getting re-acquainted with the latest goings on at the North Coast Regional District. Better ferry service, a new wildfire plan, housing, controlling Shingle Bay erosion, and working with Skidegate on repairing the Copper Bay boat launch are among his priorities for Moresby Island.
“I’m excited, and it was a real positive campaign,” he said.
On Graham Island, Johanne Young said she expects a busy time at the regional district, given plans for improved internet access, and talk of community halls for Tlell and Tow Hill.
“I feel it’s really important that the elected people represent what their community wants,” Young said, adding that she plans on hosting an informal meet-and-greet in the coming weeks so she can get to know more of her far-flung constituents living along Tow Hill and Nadu Roads, and in Tlell, Lawn Hill and Miller Creek.
“We’re spread out, but I find that we’re also sort of like-minded, too,” she said.
“Haida Gwaii is an amazing place. I think we can achieve so much if we all just help each other, and work together. That’s what’s made success through the years.”