By Dean McKerracher
Hello my friends! After 20 years as a politician, there are many topics I could write about. Most good and some not so good; have we always made the best decisions? Probably not, but we made some great ones.
How will I spend my pension? What retirement? Although people believe that municipal politicians retire with a good pension, we don’t think so (there is no pension.) At least one prisoner would be released from prison after 20 years with money in his pocket , that is not the case as a municipal politician.
I have a lot of pride and many good memories.
When you embark on a political career as a municipal politician, you do so with your heart and for the good of the community; certainly not for the money. A municipal government’s salary is at best a quarter of the salary it should receive for the long hours of dedication and service to its community and the demands people place on it.
A word of warning to new politicians: Facebook is anyone’s worst enemy, but especially a politician. No matter how many times you try to explain a problem on Facebook, you will never win. Do not use social media as a platform to communicate.
Those who use social media to complain are the same people who will hide behind Facebook and not confront you in person. Enough ranting on my part, I’ll get to the real reason I started this column.
I want to thank the people of the District of Elkford for allowing me to represent you for the past 20 years, the first three years as Councilor and the last 17 years as Mayor.
Although I know I haven’t always had your support and there have always been a few unbelievers, I hope I have converted you. I am very proud of the success and growth of Elkford over the past 17 years. Listing all the projects would take too many pages, so I will only list a few.
I am proud to have successfully negotiated the 20-year mining tax agreement with Teck which secures a firm mining tax commitment. These taxes allow us to operate our community and keep our residential taxes at a similar level to other municipalities, but provide a greater amount of services to our community.
After the 2013 floods, it became clear that flood control in Elkford was a priority. We started the riprap project on the banks of Boivin Creek and along the bank of the Fording River to protect against further flooding. Being able to coordinate with the Highway Department (Gordon Chudleigh) to get rock removed on the Elko Cuts, one of the most dangerous curves, has saved the District of Elkford hundreds of thousands of dollars for rock .
The purchase of the former primary school and six acres of land from the Ministry of Education was a key event. After lengthy negotiations with the ministry, we purchased the old school building and land for $75,000. The school board wanted $2 million for the land Fording River Mine had given them for a dollar, and the new community center became a reality.
The Elkford Community Conference Center was built entirely with insurance and grants and very little taxpayer money. I’m proud of the lookout, new district office, light gliding hill, and now the new bike park, all located on this lot today.
The rebuilding of the ice plant in the arena happened before we had a disaster. This project was managed by Darrel Hickman, again saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in management fees. The pool roof reconstruction and interior renovations were again handled in-house and saved hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The walking, biking and hiking trails around town are used by many members of our community and are part of what makes Elkford a great place to live. As a council, thousands of dollars have been committed to support Mountain Meadows Golf Course, Wapiti Ski Resort, Municipal Campground and many other projects to attract and attract new residents and visitors.
We are in the midst of a five-year commitment to repave our 50-year-old streets and redo old water and sewer lines. I recently experienced firsthand the need to improve our water and sewer services. Know that my street is the last to be redone.
We negotiated a deal with the vacuum trucks to dump into our sewage lagoons. I know it added a lot of smell, but it added huge revenue. A little smell cannot equal the revenue it brings to the district budget. (It’s the smell of MONEY.)
I am proud to have served on the Kootenay Regional District Board of Directors and the Kootenay East Hospital District Board of Directors for 17 years.
I had the honor of serving as Vice Chairman of the Hospital Board for three years and serving as Chairman of the Hospital Board for the past seven years. I was able to help bring health care to our area.
Some of the projects include the new intensive care unit, MRI, the new GAMMA camera which will soon be installed, the relocation of the oncology department, the relocation of the dialysis department and the brand new oncology unit above the intensive care building. The future expansion of Green Home and the reconstruction of the old section are also included. The list continues.
During my tenure in this role, I made important connections and was always able to voice my concern for health care in Elkford. I want to thank the hospital board for supporting me and trusting me to guide us through difficult times.
I also want to say a big thank you to the RDEK management team for all your support, it was great working with all of you.
Thank you to all past and present advisors and management teams. My success was our success, we did it as a team! It was a great pleasure to work and learn together. Thank you for your dedication to our beautiful little community which is finally starting to show some growth.
I want to sincerely congratulate new Mayor Steve Fairbairn and his new council on your election! It has been a pleasure to work with Mayor Fairbairn over the past 10 years, I know your successes will be many.
I must mention my longtime friend and advisor for 20 years for his dedication and commitment to Elkford. Councilor Craig Robinson did not always agree with council decisions, but he supported them. Who would have thought 20 years ago that we would still be working for free for the District of Elkford? Thank you my friend, for your service and support. For the most part it was fun! Good luck in your second retirement.
I would like to thank my family, our daughters, granddaughters and great-granddaughters for your support over the past 20 years. I could not have been as successful as I have been without your love and support.
Saving the best for last, thank you to my wonderful wife, companion, travel partner, advisor, reviewer, manager of all my affairs and schedule, and most importantly the LOVE of my life for the past 57 years. There aren’t enough words to cover what you mean to me and what you have done for me. Thank you for always being by my side to make me the man I am today. Thanks thanks!
Thanks to Elkford and the East Kootenay Region for your support!
In closing, Joanne and I would like to wish our wonderful community a very Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year 2023!
main picture: Dean and Joanne McKerracher. Ian Cobb/e-KNOW photos