Tofino’s mayor is no longer the chair of the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District.
Josie Osborne had held the position since December of 2014 but chose to step aside rather than run for another term, making way for John Jack to take the reins on Dec 9.
The Alberni Valley News reported that Jack, a third-term councillor for the Huu-ay-aht First Nations, is the first indigenous person representing a First Nation to be elected chair of a regional district.
Osborne told the Westerly News she plans to focus on her hometown with her top priorities being: improved emergency preparedness, regional transportation, solid waste diversion and recreational opportunities.
“Chairing the Board did add to my time commitments, but stepping back from chairing is an opportunity to take the time I spent on regional issues at the ACRD and re-focusing them to West Coast initiatives that are most important to Tofino and other West Coast communities,” she said.
She said she enjoyed her time as chair and appreciated the support she received from her fellow ACRD directors as well as her Tofino councillors and staff.
“It is a very diverse and interesting Board, and I learned a tremendous amount about how the regional district functions,” she said.
“There is incredible value in understanding the roles and responsibilities of municipalities, electoral areas and treaty First Nations in delivering regional services like emergency planning, solid waste and recycling, and rural planning.”
She added the region’s communities must work together despite the challenges presented by distance and terrain.
“With the main offices of the ACRD being located in Port Alberni, I’ve always thought it is important that the needs of the West Coast be well-recognized by the larger Board,” she said.
“Fortunately, that is the case and I think this Board has an excellent understanding of the need of different areas as well as the importance of ‘thinking regionally.’ I think all regions’ and directors’ perspectives are well heard at the ACRD table.”
She said she never shied away from lobbying for her own community as the chair, but saw her role primarily as a facilitator.
“It’s been my experience chairing any board, committee, or council, that one of my key roles is as a facilitator—helping to guide conversation to get all points of view out on the table, examine compromises or trade-offs, ensure there is enough information to make informed decisions with, and determine when is the right time to vote,” she said.
“It’s important to be somewhat neutral, but I’m never without an opinion or a perspective, and if it’s germane to the conversation I will always add it—particularly if it is different from most other perspectives.”
She believes the experience helped strengthen her relationships throughout the district.
“Chairing at the ACRD never took away from my commitments as mayor of Tofino, instead I really view it as having augmented them…One of the best things about participating on the ACRD board, as chair or otherwise, are the relationships I have developed with all the other communities,” she said.
“The Alberni Valley, for example, is not a community we simply drive through to get somewhere else, it is a community that has goods and services we do not have, that has strong business and social connections to the West Coast, and has resources we will rely on in times of emergencies. It is in our collective best interest to have strong relationships with all the communities in the region.”