Debate sends councillor packing

Lumby prison debate enough for Tracy Williamson not to seek a second term

Ongoing conflict over a proposed prison has led Tracy Williamson to abandon politics.

Williamson is not seeking a second term as a councillor during Lumby’s municipal election Nov. 19.

“Half of my decision not to run is a result of the correctional facility debate and watching the community fracture,” she said, adding that her other reasons for not pursuing re-election are her family and a lack of progress on parks and recreation issues.

Williamson says the community discussion over a prison became personal and as a councillor, she was open to heated comments and e-mails.

“The  debate, it followed every step I took — whether I was at lunch or at a more formal setting. It took over my workplace,” she said.

Williamson opposed applying to the provincial government for a prison, but once council took that step, she didn’t openly challenge her colleagues. That upset people who wanted her to take a more visible stand.

“We made a lot of mistakes,” she said of how council presented the concept to residents.

“We should have had public input at the very beginning. Maybe we should have put other industries on the table for (economic development) options.”

However, Williamson refutes claims that council had predetermined that a prison would be sought before taking the matter to the community.

“All this council and mayor wanted was to get to negotiations,” she said of the process with the government.

Individuals in favour and opposed to a prison are seeking seats on council Nov. 19 and reigniting the rift is a concern for Williamson.

“It’s still on the street and in conversation,” she said.

“I wish the province would have made a decision on a location by now.”

Williamson admits, though, that the debate has demonstrated a sense of community pride and that is positive.

“Seeing people step up for council seats is good news. I applaud both sides of the fence. To put themselves forward for three years of office shows they are committed to what they believe in,” she said.

Also not seeking a seat Nov. 19 is Ben Winters, a longtime councillor.

“I put in nine years and I have done my share,” said Winters, adding that he’s enjoyed his time on council.

“I’ve never seen a better bunch of people to work with. I will definitely miss it.”