View Royal will have a chance to choose its mayor for the first time in nine years.
In the past two elections, no one challenged current Mayor Graham Hill and he was took the position by acclimation. Now Hill has two people running against him as he seeks his a fourth term.
Andrew Britton, 45, is a two-term councillor who says it’s time for someone new to lead the town.
He wants to see View Royal welcoming new smart development, and in particular commercial space for professional offices, to diversify the tax base — and fast. He says the tax base needs to be diversified to avoid big tax increases to pay for future projects, including sewage treatment, light rail transit and a new fire hall.
“I’m not saying put a bunch of big box stores in View Royal,” Britton stressed, explaining he’d like to attract doctors and lawyers offices and other professionals.
He says it currently takes far too long for development proposals to be approved.
“There are proposals I saw in my first term as councillor that are still at council,” Britton said. “At Thetis Cove the developer went bankrupt waiting for us to approve the project.”
Britton is also concerned about non-essential spending. He didn’t support spending $150,000 on the rock mural on Island Highway — and though he says it’s a beautiful piece of public art, he still questions if the money could have been better spent.
“I would review all current spending … and trim the fat,” Britton said, noting that he suspects there could be savings in maintenance contracts and budgets for sending councillors to conferences.
A full-time paramedic, Britton admits he can’t also be a full-time mayor, but said that will give other councillors a chance to be more involved.
“Being mayor isn’t doing everything yourself, it’s recognizing the strengths on your council and delegating,” he said.
Barb Fetherstonhaugh, 48, ran unsuccessfully for a council seat last election and this time is trying for the mayor’s spot.
“Mayor is a different and better position for me and what I want to accomplish,” said Fetherstonhaugh, owner of Pete’s Tent and Awning. “I want to create a smoother bureaucratic process with a council that really listens to people.”
Born and raised in View Royal, Fetherstonhaugh was a founding member of the Shoreline Community School Association and, 30 years later, she continues to serve on its board of directors. She’s served on parents advisory councils and has been on Town and regional committees.
In all her governance roles, she’s made it a priority to listen to people and explain to them what’s going on in the decision making process. This is what she promises to bring to the mayor’s office, if elected.
“Politicians always say they’re elected to make decisions for people — I disagree with that,” Fetherstonhaugh said. “I think we’re elected to listen to people and represent what they want.”
She wants to make it easier for residents to have their voices heard, by holding regular town hall meetings where anyone can speak on whatever topic.
She also wants to limit in-camera discussions to only what is legally necessary and recruit a larger cross-section of people to sit on committees.
Fetherstonhaugh is modest about her chance of unseating the current mayor.
“Of course I’d like to win, but even if I get 20 to 30 per cent of the vote, that’s going to send a strong message that people are looking for change,” she said.
Graham Hill, 76, has been View Royal’s mayor since 2002 and this is the first year since then that he’s had competition for his job.
A retired government worker, Hill is a full-time mayor who serves on several Capital Regional District committees, including as vice-chair of the CRD board of directors, chair of the CRD hospital board, and chair of the CRD planning, transportation and protective services committee. He’s also a founding director of the Island Corridor Foundation.
Over the past nine years, Hill said he’s taken View Royal from being an un-cared for Town to an attractive place to live.
“I’m proud of my work so far,” Hill said. “This election is an opportunity to strengthen my position and mandate as I talk with voters and consider the view of fellow candidates.”
He said the Town is facing uncertain times with the challenges of downloading of responsibility from higher levels of government, as well as upcoming expenses of replacing the town fire hall, while contributing to regional sewage treatment and transportation.
“I’m used to advocating for the Town’s interests and securing funding for big projects,” Hill said, citing the federal funding for the Island Highway Improvement Project and regional gas tax funding for Craigflower bridge, as examples of grants secured under his watch. “We’ve been able to make major improvements without burdening the taxpayer.”
View Royal’s taxes are the fourth lowest in the region, Hill pointed out.
“We’ve managed our spending responsibly,” he said. “The Town is in a good position to continue to develop in a sustainable way.”