Unlikely as it may seem, at least one organization on the island is already thinking about an upcoming election: the North Salt Spring Waterworks District (NSSWD), where two trustees’ terms are ending this spring.
Trustees Chris Dixon and Brian Pyper are serving terms that end next year; the election itself will be held in the weeks preceding the district’s annual general meeting on Thursday, May 2, 2024. Notably, NSSWD has at least one trustee position up for election every year, as the three-year terms of the five serving trustees do not completely align.
But in the lead-up to the 2024 contest, the district’s board — as part of its recently approved strategic plan — has tasked staff with exploring the potential for a candidate information session.
At the board’s meeting Thursday, Nov. 23, newly re-titled chief administrative officer Mark Boysen told trustees he had organized a similar session during his time with the District of Ucluelet, with great success.
“We held a session that was in-person,” said Boysen. “I did a quick presentation about what it would be like to be on that council. But the real benefit for everybody was the question-and-answer period; they had a chance to ask questions, and come and talk to somebody directly.”
Boysen said the effect would be to encourage more potential candidates to assess their eligibility and consider running — and those that do will have a clearer understanding of what roles and responsibilities they’re signing up for.
“That would have been really helpful for me,” said trustee Elizabeth FitzZaland, who was elected this term. “I called around to trustees and past trustees to try to figure out what the job really was, and what the experience was like. It would have been nice to have a common starting place for anyone who’s interested.”
Trustee Steve Lam, also elected in spring of this year, agreed. “I think it’s a great idea,” he said. “I would definitely have attended it if there had been one last year.”
Trustee Dixon said while he also supported an information session, he felt the process was diminished in the last election by not having an opportunity for a structured public debate among the candidates.
“As far as the actual public forum is concerned, in my view, it is the litmus test,” said Dixon. “This is where they can stand up and say, ‘Sir, you say this, but reality says that. Can you please respond?’”
For now, trustees agreed, while they would be seeking partnerships with outside groups to explore debate options, planning the information session was the first priority. Financial officer Tammy Lannan said the nomination period is typically in February, with election packages being sent out over the following four to six weeks. The board approved a plan to schedule the information session for an evening session near the end of January, with the date being firmed up and well-publicized in the coming weeks.