It wasn’t a surprise that rural Lumby director Rick Fairbairn was elected chairperson of the Regional District of North Okanagan.
After all, he has been on the board since 2002, has been vice-chairperson and has been acting chairperson after the death of Patrick Nicol in January. He has developed a range of skills that are necessary to oversee the district.
However, some of his comments Wednesday were unfortunate.
“The chairperson should be from the electoral areas because this is the governance for the electoral areas,” he said, while soliciting support from his colleagues (also seeking the job was Vernon director Juliette Cunningham).
Yes, RDNO is the only form of governance that exists for the five rural areas whereas the district’s municipal members have city halls to oversee operations. But the reality is that regional districts play a critical role in municipalities.
Under legislation, RDNO is responsible for solid waste, while it also handles water, culture and major parks for Greater Vernon. In fact, Greater Vernon issues have dominated the board agenda, including how to recover from a failed water referendum and constructing a new ice sheet.
The major thrust of the regional district is co-operation, and consider that virtually all municipalities have rallied behind Cherryville in its fight over a logging road. There is no us and them at the table.
Fairbairn insists that the chairperson should come from a rural area but he is just the fourth electoral area director to be chairperson in almost 25 years. The others have come from the municipalities of Armstrong, Lumby and Vernon.
Fairbairn must remember that while he was elected to the board by residents of rural Lumby, now that he is chairperson, he is responsible to the entire region.