Ucluelet’s mayor Dianne St. Jacques will not seek re-election this fall.
St. Jacques served as Ucluelet’s mayor from 1999-2008 and took a break from municipal politics before returning to the mayor’s seat in 2014 when she defeated incumbent mayor Bill Irving by nine votes, 303-294.
She told the Westerly News that she had contemplated running for another term, but ultimately decided that it’s time for Ucluelet to have new leadership.
“I really feel that it’s time for somebody younger and fresh who knows the community and has great ideas and lots of energy for it. It’s time to hand it over,” she said. “I will miss it unbelievably because I really enjoyed it. Obviously it’s a great community and I think we’ve gotten some good things done…I love representing Ucluelet and I’m proud to do that; I always have been.”
St. Jacques pointed to Ucluelet’s Official Community Plan update as a top highlight of her last four years as she believes it will give incoming developers a clear vision of the direction Ucluelet’s community wants to go. She also cited partnering with the Toquaht First Nation to launch the Barkley Community Forest Corporation, which netted a 2017 surplus of $1 million split between the partners, its first year of operation, and securing Ucluelet’s former Coast Guard lands for the district as key victories she will remember from her final term.
She said Ucluelet is well set up for success and advises whoever replaces her to stay enthusiastic.
“You’re the face of the community,” she said. “Have a great positive energy, keep your sense of humour and have fun with it because there’s a lot of really great things that can be accomplished.”
With St. Jacques out of the running, Ucluelet will select a new mayor on Oct. 20 and the ballot is filling up with at least three candidates vying for the position.
Former mayor Bill Irving and current councillor Randy Oliwa have both announced they will be running and they will be joined in the race by Ucluelet’s harbour master Kevin Cortes .
Cortes announced his candidacy for mayor last week and told the Westerly News he will provide an energetic and transparent voice to Ucluelet’s government.
“At this point in time, the village is moving forward and I think it needs direction. I believe I can give it direction,” he said. “I believe it needs open, honest and transparent governance and that’s who I am…What you see is what you get with me.”
Cortes said he plans to build a more transparent government where decisions made during in camera meetings, which are closed to the public, are explained to the community.
“If you are voting a certain way, you should be able to stand up and say, ‘This is why I voted that way,’” he said. “When things go in camera, I don’t think it all gets out, how it was voted and who voted and why they voted the way they did. I think that information should be public to people because it’s a public decision.”
The lifelong Ucluelet local said he has volunteered through Ucluelet’s school system and with the RCMP as an Auxiliary Constable and enjoys giving back to the community he loves.
“I have the energy. I have the focus. I have the time to be able to do this at this stage in my life and I think it’s a positive move,” he said.
Municipal councillor Randy Oliwa told the Westerly News in April that he planned to run for mayor and he made that decision official by announcing his candidacy last week.
He told the Westerly on Monday that the feedback he’s received about his candidacy so far has been “amazing,” with encouragement coming from longtime and new community members as well as officials throughout the region.
Oliwa has served under three mayors during his three terms on council and said he has learned from each of them over that 10-year period.
“I want to take all three of those terms and all three of those gifts that I’ve been given and apply them to this next four years. There will be no downtime. It’s out of the gate, it’s ready to go,” he said. “I believe the community has invested in me by electing me three consecutive terms. They’ve invested in me, not just financially, but also I’ve gained some intellectual and intricate knowledge of the operations of the municipality. For me, it’s payback time. I’ve got plans in place. I’ve got innovative ideas, pen put to paper, ready to go. They’re ready to launch.”
He said one of those ideas is to implement a two-day workshop immediately after the election for Ucluelet’s new council to meet with district staff and be brought up to speed and onto the same page around municipal policies, bylaws and plans. He added that he is not surprised to see an influx of mayoral candidates in the race this year.
“I think Ucluelet has a very high percentage of community leaders and champions and they’re willing to step forward and pick up the challenge to represent their community,” he said. “It really is an incredible position to be in, so I understand why it would be attractive to those people that I’ve worked with for years in the community.”
Bill Irving announced his candidacy in July and told the Westerly on Monday that he’s been listening to feedback from the community and affordable housing is at the top of local minds. He added that he lived through housing struggles when he moved to Ucluelet 40 years ago.
“When I first moved Ucluelet, housing was an issue quite frankly. I lived in a trailer, on people’s couches and in subsidized housing for a while and I know exactly what that means to young families and young individuals,” he said.
“It’s such an important thing to recognize that there’s people when you talk about affordable housing. You’re not just talking about a building, you’re talking about people. So, that’s a huge issue for the West Coast.”
Irving believes there is a lot of momentum coming into this election and is excited to see a large lineup of candidates running for mayor and council.
“There are huge issues that Ucluelet is facing and to have that kind of energy and public discussion is enormous,” he said
He suggested Ucluelet’s new mayor and council will need to be aggressive out of the gate.
“Ucluelet was really quite a powerful spokesperson for West Coast issues like fishing, forestry, tourism development et cetera and I think the new energy from council needs to be able to hit the ground running on those issues,” he said. “Otherwise we tend to fall behind fairly quickly because Port Alberni and Tofino are being very active on those fronts, so we have to be very aggressive.”