New councillors preparing for financial challenges

Victory parties are over and Vernon’s new council is faced with difficult economic realities.

Victory parties are over and Vernon’s new council is faced with difficult economic realities.

The six individuals elected as councillors Saturday all insist financial planning is critical.

“A lot of the talk in the election was about costs,” said Patrick Nicol, a veteran politician who topped the polls.

The process is already underway for the city’s 2012 budget.

“We need to put together a good financial plan,” said Nicol.

Juliette Cunningham, a former councillor who was re-elected, is keen to look at city hall operations given the challenging times.

“We have to look at fiscal issues. People are demanding that,” she said, adding that there will also be a focus on social issues.

Newcomer Catherine Lord believes a core review of services can’t be ignored.

“It’s important that we get on it fairly soon,” said Lord, who is manager of O’Keefe Ranch. “The budget is the first thing we’ll be looking at and we will do hiring of a new chief administrative officer simultaneously.”

Bob Spiers is back for a second term.

“Hopefully we’ll have a spirit of co-operation and move the town towards some semblance of financial sustainability,” he said.

“The budget comes first naturally and hopefully council will put the money up for a core service review.”

Architect Brian Quiring wants his first term focused on stimulating job growth.

“Vernon is open for business. We’ll see some projects moving forward,” he said. “If there are too many resources in a city department, they may have to be shifted over to economic development.”

Incumbent Mary-Jo O’Keefe is looking forward to sitting down with her new colleagues and seeing what direction council takes.

“There’s been a lot of work just on the cusp of happening so it will be interesting to see if that continues,” she said.

O’Keefe admits the loss of two councillors — Jack Gilroy and Shawn Lee — came as a complete surprise.

“People didn’t tell me they were really upset with this (current) council,” she said.

Lee, who is ending his first term, placed eighth out of 15 candidates. — just behind Gilroy

“I’m disappointed and I would still like to be there but we live in a democracy,” said the dentist.

Lee insists he and Gilroy were simply “bumped” down the list by other capable candidates that put themselves forward.

“I don’t take it as a personal thing. It’s mathematical.”