In the first board meeting since local government elections in November, the RDEK re-elected Area C director Rob Gay as chair of the board of directors.
Moved by Area A director Mike Sosnowski and seconded by Fernie mayor Mary Giuliano, the vote passed without opposition to reinstate both Gay as chair and Wendy Booth as vice-chair.
“I was very pleased,” said Gay. “I take the job as chair very, very seriously and I think we have some changes on the board. I think change is good, but you don’t want everything to change at once, so I think with staff and directors felt lets leave the status quo intact.”
The RDEK meeting, which featured some new faces following electoral results in communities across the East Kootenay region, began with a brief presentation from former Cranbrook mayor Wayne Stetski, who thanked the board and RDEK staff for their work during his tenure.
“For those of you who are new directors at the table, you’ll find this an interesting level of government,” Stetski said.
He singled out Loree Duczek, the RDEK communications manager for winning a provincial award and made note of the hard work put in by the rest of the organization’s staff.
As a parting suggestion, Stetski also hoped the new board would look at developing a regional economic development strategy.
“I really do think that we do need a region-wide economic development strategy that comes from the directors around the table. As many of you know, I was a regional manager for the Ministry of Environment for the East and West Kootenays for many years,” Stetski said.
“To me the strength really is in the region, so I encourage you to consider putting that on the list of priorities at some point to create a regional economic development plan, which would come from this board.”
Gay paid tribute to Stetski for his work over the last three years.
“It did not take long to realize that Wayne was a total advocate for the city of Cranbrook and all the community had to offer,” Gay said. “His passion for the community was was not only at our board table, but in their meetings, UBCM, and AKBLG.
“Wayne represented his city very well.”
The new board members, who were either elected as area directors or appointed as municipal council representatives, have spent the last few days learning about their new roles with the RDEK.
“What I think is the hardest part is the procedural rules. We, as chairs and mayors, you need to learn to talk in a different language. Everything has to be moved and seconded, then you can speak about it and you really have to stay on topic and some people like to wander,” said Gay.
“And that’s probably the hardest thing is to say ‘no, we’re talking on this motion and this is the area, so lets stick with this, make a decision, then we can move on and bring something up.'”
Cranbrook mayor Lee Pratt and councillor Tom Shypitka are both the new municipal representatives for Cranbrook at the board table.
“I was amazed at everything they deal with,” said Pratt. “I don’t think people know what all the regional district handles in different areas, so I was very impressed with that and I realize that Cranbrook does have a big part in that, but we also have to realize that the smaller communities have needs too.”
Shypitka notes it’s been a pretty steep learning curve.
“It’s been eye opening for sure. I never realized just how much is entailed at the regional district and what kind of issues they tackle daily and monthly,” Shypitka said.
“The staff here is awesome, the way everything is run is really impressive. It’s going to take me a little while to get my legs under me, but after the first three days, it’s been pretty good.”
Gay added that while new board directors may be eager to get down to business, it’s important to tackle issues the right way.
“The other thing I think is frustrating to new people,” said Gay, “is they’re frustrated and anxious and they want to get something on the agenda and you have to bring it forward with some background information because just putting an idea on an idea on the agenda on a board like this doesn’t go anywhere.
“You have to have it well-thought out and researched and we hope they allow staff time to do that research.”