A byelection was called after Councillor Scott Forsyth (third from right) resigned in January. (Photo by: John Boivin)

Rossland rookie councillors offer advice to prospective candidates

Something to read before you decide to run in the upcoming by-election

It’s decision time for would-be politicians in Rossland.

Campaigning for the election of a new city councillor will begin in a few weeks.

The by-election was called for Rossland after the resignation of first-time councillor Scott Forsyth.

Nomination papers are now available for those thinking of running.

It’s been about 15 months since the election that established the current council. We thought we’d ask other rookie councillors to offer some advice to candidates about what the job is really like.

Stewart Spooner, Dirk Lewis and Janice Nightingale all responded to our request.

The byelection will be held April 4.

1. How would you describe your first year in office?

Dirk Lewis: Busy! There is a lot to learn, even more to read, six new coworkers to get to know.

Janice Nightingale: A whirlwind! So much to learn, and finding a routine took a while, but I feel like I have settled in now. The learning continues, which is one of my favorite things.

Stewart Spooner: Mixed. There are rewards and frustrations in equal measure.

2. What has been the most surprising thing about being on council?

Lewis: How busy it is. This isn’t a dip in and dip out gig. I spend about 10 to 15 hours a week on average, reading, aiming to understand the nuances of all decisions, writing and responding to emails, in meetings, and periodic roadside chats.

Nightingale: The generosity and support that all the city staff have extended to us as we work to find our place in and understand the process of decision making, and the bigger process of managing a complex and diverse community.

Spooner: How appreciative and respectful residents are of my efforts.

3. What has been the most rewarding thing? What has been the most frustrating?

Lewis: I think seeing the city in a new light. It’s really a great opportunity to dig into things that I would otherwise take for granted. The only frustrating bit, and this shouldn’t surprise anyone, is the speed at which big decisions are made. The current staff here can make things happen quickly, but there is a lot of process that, rightly so, blocks the accelerator.

Nightingale: a. The positive public feedback and the graciousness of the public when I am out living my life in town. And, how much I have learned from my fellow councillors. b. The unwillingness of some to ask for/accept information we share with them, and continue creating inflammatory comments on social media, sometimes anonymously. Council works hard to become as informed as we can about the decisions we have to make, regardless of our stance. We will happily share the information we used to reach our conclusions. All anyone has to do is ask.

Spooner: I find engaging with staff and my fellow councillors on the issues at hand very rewarding, but am frustrated at the endless impediments to meaningful change.

4. How have you been able to contribute to the functioning of the council in the first year?

Lewis: I think everyone on council has been able to contribute their own experiences to the decisions. We’ve collectively altered the priorities to better match the environmental priorities we are faced with. We’re working towards what we collectively feel makes our city terrific.

Nightingale: Council is a team, and I think that the best contribution you can make is to be a good, respectful team player. Our differences of opinion, and diverse skill sets make our decisions stronger and better thought out than they might be otherwise. Everyone on council wants to do their best for the community. Sharing our thoughts and knowledge with each other helps that to happen.

Spooner: I contribute as much of my time, attention, and ideas as I’m able, and am made to feel that’s appreciated.

5. What advice would you give for someone thinking about running in the by-election? What should they really know about the job?

Lewis: The advice would be to give it a go; and chat with councillors and the mayor, old and new. The key things to know are: it requires a lot of time and a lot of reading, we all have only one vote, and it’s a big commitment.

Nightingale: If someone is thinking about running for council, they should think about speaking to one or more current councillors, and attending several council meetings from start to finish. What people really need to know about being a councillor is that change is gradual, and rightly so. The built-in checks and balances can be frustrating to navigate at times, but they are there for a reason.

There is an annual cycle that occurs, and a motion to drive change is sometimes stronger and has more substance behind it if a complete cycle and more information can be analyzed. There are many decisions to be made, large and small, every meeting, and they are all important to someone and deserve our full attention. Rossland’s staff does an excellent job of providing the information we need, but additional research or input is encouraged!

Spooner: Talk with current councillors to ensure you know what you’re getting yourself in for. It’s not like most regular jobs.

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Stewart Spooner

Janice Nightingale

Dirk Lewis

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