My focus on the candidates also changed for different phases of selection. I began looking at them as individuals and then changed to see them as potential members of a group. No individual will bring everything voters need to the council table, but a group can add complementary traits, fill in holes, make a council complete — provided they work together.
My final selections, therefore, are based on both the candidates as individuals and on an estimate of their ability to contribute to a group. Not all the picks were easy. Some seemed straightforward, but others very nuanced. Many had strong points — a lot of strong points — but, unfortunately, there weren’t enough seats at the council table to accommodate them all. I had to start looking for negative qualities or some other basis to get the list to nine.
I put aside anyone I worried might be more inclined to view the position in terms of keeping busy in retirement, resolving a personal issue, or as a source of income, rather than as a civil service. I eliminated anyone I thought might lack the stamina to stay engaged for the full four-year term, or who I suspected might not be fully committed to Nanaimo. I crossed out any candidate who raised concerns about conflicts of interest, or who I judged to have too many other demands competing for their time. Those factors removed many candidates I otherwise thought could be good and motivated me to examine the full list of candidates again.
My final choices, then, rest on a number of different factors. These include gauging a candidate for attributes that I believe are crucial for an elected official [See my column of September 29 located here]; ability to maintain and advocate for her/his individual perspective and values; and ability to do so while working with others as a team. I also gauged whether the potential upside, or benefits, a candidate might bring to City Hall outweigh any downside risks.
I’ll set out the candidates I’ve chosen for councillor in three sub-groups according to factors I think distinguishes them from each other. Each factor identifies a dominant, positive trait the sub-group will bring to Nanaimo Council. Of course there are overlaps with other traits.
First up are those with established records of actively opposing the dysfunctional forces during the current council’s term of office. They include Sheryl Armstrong and Don Bonner. I have given my reasons for endorsing Armstrong here, and Bonner here. Armstrong earned my vote by her efforts to end the abuses of voter interests and city staff after she was elected; Bonner by his relentless questioning of Council despite significant, retaliatory action showered on him personally. Armstrong also demonstrates the transparency demanded by voters by making public her voting rationale for each decision made in council. Bonner has become as familiar with municipal policies, regulations, and procedures as a sitting councillor. Both exemplify the honesty, transparency, integrity, and approach to governance we need on Wallace Street.
Second up are those I’ve referred to elsewhere as millennials: Tyler Brown, Erin Hemmens, and Ben Geselbracht. These three candidates represent the future and have the biggest stake in making Nanaimo the place in which we all will want to live and prosper. Equally important, they also have the experience, abilities, and desire to see the needed tasks identified and done. All are bright, educated, and competent: Tyler Brown with his broad perspective as a urban and regional planner; Erin Hemmens with knowledge gained from anthropological study, health science background, and work as a Nanaimo city coroner; Ben Geselbracht for his work and commitment to operationalize the social and environmental values that bond and sustain the best communities. Their special knowledge and skills complement each other and others on a council. I consider my voting for all three is not only a no-brainer, but actually exciting.
Third, are the three candidates I see as the best voices of experience. These are: Zeni Maartman, Ian Thorpe, and Jim Turley. I’ll give each a short paragraph of explanation.
Maartman was born in Belize, graduated from high school in Qualicum, and has lived many years around the globe. Consequently, she brings both a local and global perspective. Locally, she has served as a school trustee, president of Tourism Nanaimo, and on various city and other committees. She is articulate and sharply perceptive. And, of course, she’s female. That’s important. We absolutely need another woman on our council along with Armstrong and Hemmens to represent voters more accurately and to calm hierarchical power struggles.
Thorpe has a number of attributes that call for his inclusion. During the last four years, he always displayed civility (even when under attack); demonstrated reasoned decision-making (even though I didn’t always agree with him), and showed the ability not only to listen but to hear and take the opinions of others into account. He is the best candidate to bring knowledge and understanding of what happened during the current term and provide continuity. His experience as a teacher is a bonus as it makes him a good prospect to assist those newly elected to a municipal office. He is also a credible and articulate representative of our city in other political arenas. I suspect that his positive contributions will increase once on a normal council.
Turley is well known personally or by name to the entire core of “old” Nanaimo. It is probably fair to say that Turley not only represents this community and can speak for it on Council, but he is probably better positioned to take Council’s messages to it than any other candidate. That could be important when Council confronts the legacy of our departed senior officers. Turley is no stranger to financial statements and to balance sheets. His long experience as a local businessman will also be of use when it comes to determining the means needed to restore the downtown core. He has seen the area in good years, and in bad. He is familiar with it in a way that may be unique among all other candidates. His experiences on a myriad of local committees and with various organizations testify to his deep commitment to Nanaimo. Over the years, he has given much to our community, and we would be remiss if we didn’t regard his running for the office of councillor to be an offer to give us even more.
Finally, for Mayor, I believe the best potential leader for this team is Leonard Krog. Even though Don Hubbard has a number of strong, attractive qualities and knows the community probably as well as Krog, I suspect Krog would prove to be the more likely candidate to empower members of the new Nanaimo Council. I believe he would be more willing to encourage councillors to think independently and outside the box and the one most likely to recognize the strengths and abilities that individual councillors bring to the table. Lastly but crucially, I suspect Krog would probably be the one to encourage and assist the development of the younger, newer members. For me, the likelihood of this facilitation is the deciding factor. I will vote for Leonard Krog.