Tofino will elect a new mayor and two new councillors on March 6. (Westerly file photo)

Tofino will elect a new mayor and two new councillors on March 6. (Westerly file photo)

Tofino’s councillor candidates lay out their motivations for running

Tofino will elect a new mayor and two new councillors on March 6.

Tofino will elect a new mayor and two new municipal councillors on March 6. In an effort to keep the community informed of their choices, the Westerly News will be asking each candidate a question and publishing their answers in the newspapers leading up to the March 6 byelection. For this week, each candidate was asked to explain why they are running. Responses were limited to a maximum of 300 words. The mayoralty candidates’ responses can be found here. Below are the responses from Tofino’s seven candidates for councillor: Jacky Challenger, Zak Cross, Stephen Ashton, Chris Heisterman, Cathy Thicke, Ali Sawyer and Lindsay Whitefield. The order they appear was selected at random.

Jacky Challenger

Tofino has been my year-round home for over a decade. I started out living in a tent and serving coffee for work. Early on, I was awestruck by the beauty and rich history of this place and was determined to stay.

Today, I own and operate a small business rooted in community wellness, and my partner and I recently purchased a home. I’ve been very fortunate to find my place here over the years.

I know the housing shuffle from personal experience, and if elected, I will advocate for sustainable development that focuses on affordable housing options for residents. I dream of raising a family here and I see the challenges that young families are facing. I want to support the community by providing families with affordable childcare, as well as engaging educational and recreational programs within accessible facilities for all demographics to enjoy.

I recognize that we are in the midst of a global climate crisis. Tofino needs to be prepared for warmer and drier summers and rising sea levels. We need to upgrade our infrastructure while prioritizing the health of the environment. To combat these challenges and the many more that our communities are facing, I support and hope to see the relationship between Tofino Mayor and Council and the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation grow stronger to find solutions that reflect the values of the region as a whole.

I think we can all agree that Tofino has the opportunity to be a leader in advancing accessibility, environmental consciousness, and collaborative governance. My experience as a small business owner and my compassionate, approachable nature make me well suited for a role that requires both teamwork and leadership. I’ve been striving to live up to my name since the day I was born, and thus I am more than ever, up for this challenge!

Zak Cross

I am running for council as I feel that it is the best way that I can actively participate in the future of this community.

I am intrigued by the challenges that this town faces and I would like to be more involved at working to find solutions.

I have never worked in this capacity but I’m excited by the opportunity and think I can be of service.

I am hoping to contribute to a process that actively encourages public dialogue and effectively represents the people who make up this community.

I also feel that being a homeowner, small business owner and part of 4 generations of a family that all live here, gives me a good perspective of the values and interests of this town.

Stephen Ashton

I live in a home off the grid, on an island and commute by kayak to Tofino. I have a strong business background with a green environmental conscience. I’m a member of the Federal and Provincial Green Party and have been a long time board member with the Friends of Clayoquot Sound. I have managed a major resort and owned my own Bed and Breakfast in Tofino. I have been an appointed member of Tourism Tofino and was a long time elected director and VP of the Tofino Chamber. I currently work at Tofino General Hospital, the Tofino Government liquor store and teach Foodsafe through North Island College. I was previously elected to Tofino Council in 2008 and served a full term. I am running for council for 2 reasons. One, to make our community more livable for the residents and to bring a green perspective to council. I also do not support any ban on residents having a beach fire. To sit with friends and family around a beach campfire and gaze at the stars is a west coast rite. Please vote.

Chris Heisterman

Like many, I moved to Tofino ‘for the summer’. I fell in love with the region and community. When I wasn’t surfing, I worked diligently through my 20’s to make a foundation for myself here. With dedication and support I was fortunate to buy a home, and become a long term community member. I am seeing less of the opportunities I was fortunate to grasp, and less viability for residents who aspire to make Tofino a long term home.

I am running for council to support engaged individuals, couples, and families who want an opportunity to be a part of our community.

As an owner and as a manager, I have firsthand experience with Tofino’s short-term rental market. I see the opportunity that it creates for locals to become strong long-term community members. I also see the scarcity that it creates when those homes are filled with non residents. Because of the opportunity that was presented to me, I feel it is my duty to give back, and empower others to find their opportunity in Tofino.

I will focus on a sustainable approach to:

– Balancing tourism to support locals

– Improving recreation for youth

– Protecting our environment

– Facilitating our unique housing market

Cathy Thicke

Tofino has been my home for over 30 years. It has been a wonderful place for us to live, work and raise a family. Two of our three adult children live here, and the next generation is on its way! I am inspired to run for council to help ensure that the opportunities that we enjoyed in the past, remain a viable option for young people and families going forward. I am concerned about the recent pressures in the real estate market, the pattern of growth in the tourism industry, and the potential burden of crushing infrastructure debt. These issues are pushing the dream of a secure place to live beyond the reach of many, who would otherwise make a great contribution to our community.

Addressing most of these issues is within the domain of municipal governance. Until they are addressed they will tend to overshadow the provision of many recreational and cultural opportunities that councils might want to provide.

As well, issues of affordability and taxation can limit the time we have to volunteer, raise money, and contribute to the greater good of our community.

We are also part of a neighbourhood of communities, and our relationships are critically important. With our First Nation neighbours we have the opportunity, perhaps more than many others, to live out of what truth and reconciliation might actually look like. This is both a demanding and exciting challenge as we try and forge a better way forward based on mutual respect and a shared responsibility for people and the environment we care about so much.

Addressing these complex issues inspires me!

I would love the opportunity to continue working on behalf of all of us towards an affordable, just, and inclusive future based on a strong economy and a fiscally responsible government. Thank you.

Ali Sawyer

Running for council was not something that I’d lined up in my ten year plan, or had been waiting for the opportunity to do.

It is the answer to a question that someone asked me, that many people echoed over the years. What happened? What can we do? How can we fix this? Does anyone hear us?

While I feel that Tofino has come a long way and the current councilors are working hard for this town that we all love, there is more that we can do. We have to ensure that the town reflects the needs and values of the people that live here. The perspective that I will bring to the council is unique in that I do not own a home, a business or run an airbnb unit. I will be unbiased but also driven to speak up on the issues that leave so much of our population feeling at a loss and unheard.

I’m running to bring the voices of the people in town to the council table, so they can speak for their families, the environment, and their future.

Lindsay Whitefield

For the last 6 years I have had the opportunity to work within the tourism industry , partner with a small west coast business, own a home and raise a family with my husband in Tofino. Within that short time I’ve seen Tofino’s population and tourism industry grow immensely, putting pressure on district infrastructure, affordable housing and accessible amenities for our community and it’s visitors.

As a mother of three, I understand the struggle young families experience trying to sustain in Tofino.

As a councillor I will work with District of Tofino and my fellow councillors on solutions for infant care and expanded childcare solutions for children of all ages and abilities. I will focus on recreational facility planning, that includes functional year round space for expanded recreation programs available to all ages. In order to keep our community thriving, it is essential to provide below market housing for long-term locals and families.

These issues can not wait any longer, access to affordable housing for hard-working locals is imperative.

I will work with my fellow councillors to carefully and collectively see affordable housing incentives move forward while keeping innovative ideas on environmental solutions and additional green space measures included in these projects.

I feel privileged to call Tofino home and I am honoured to have the opportunity to champion for my community by running for council. I believe in this town!

As a community-driven, family-focused go-getter, with your vote, I will fight for an accessible and sustainable Tofino for everyone.

READ MORE: Tofino’s mayoralty candidates explain why they want the job

READ MORE: Tofino to ask for leeway in mail-in voting restrictions for March byelection

READ MORE: Tofino officially pegs March 6 for municipal byelection

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