My final choices for Nanaimo city council

Don White News Nanaimo
After a long and difficult process, I am pleased to announce my final selections for a Nanaimo city council we can all have confidence in
The last couple of weeks have been more than just a little different. Never have I attended so many election-related meetings and events. Never before have I sat down over coffee with anyone running for election. Nor have I ever been as concerned with making informed choices before I go to vote. My decision to write about the process of picking candidates changed that.

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.

My final selections are based on the candidates as individuals and on their ability to contribute to a group.

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.

Armstrong and Bonner exemplify the honesty, transparency, integrity, and approach to governance we need on Wallace Street.

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.

About the author

Don White

Don White

Don moved to Nanaimo from the BC Lower Mainland almost five years ago, but has visited the Island regularly for more than thirty years. He considers local government to be a crucial factor in determining not only our quality of life, but also our efforts to protect and responsibly develop this beautiful but vulnerable setting we live in. This view became his motivation for continuing to inform and engage Nanaimo voters.


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  • I am pretty much on the same page here Don and I thank you for your insight and sharing with us. It is an important issue for the city so please everyone get out and vote.

  • Good work Don. I thank you for your insightful analysis in picking nine out of 41. i do worry however about single issue candidates such as Bonner, Turley and possibly Krog. We’ll see and I hope for the best changes to council and the
    efficient functioning of City Hall.

  • We agree on all but one, although I’m still juggling more than 8 choices. Interesting insights and valuable advice, Don .. thanks.

  • Thank you for your thoughtful analysis, I appreciate the effort and believe you have reasoned your coices well. Really helps my research.

  • A difficult task very nicely done and very much appreciated. Only two small quibbles: First, in the search for negatives to get to a final list I see no mention of the possibility for you of a tie or toss of the coin situation, if you will. For me that’s actually the case with respect to some of your recommendations and tossing a coin may well be what I end up doing — simply because I cannot see some of them as being better choices than some who are not on your list. This leads to the second quibble: the three categories selected are valid screening devices but overlook some considerations that are also important, such as area representation, social class, and ethnic diversity (gender and youth did get nods, however). I have no idea how your selections stack up in most of these other respects, but in past years we’ve had councils overloaded with members from the central part of the city and the north end; in the past we’ve also had too little representation of Nanaimo’s ethnic diversity (although that was made up for in spades last time out, but without great results, unfortunately). Better geographical representation, to take one example, may well have spared us the ill-thought out Colliery Dams proposal that came to dominate the political agenda for many months; more social and age diversity may well have contributed more critical thinking at the onset to the conference centre proposal as a priority, given so many other community wants and needs. For me, maintaining at least a semblance of diversity on council (and also staff) on several fronts is important given the times we live in and the problems we face. Without that diversity points of view that are important may be easily overlooked. My hope is that some voters will consider diversity important — at the very least in any toss of the coin situation they may be considering.

  • Krog has deep connections provincially and nationally. His knowledge of procedures and processes is impressive. Your councillor choices are all good – I recognize 3 others who would also do well. Besides fiscal acuity, I feel art, culture and heritage need advocacy – these elements should be considered significant aspects of our profile as a city of interest in the 21st century.

  • Four out of nine, but two on your list that I didn’t vote for were a serious consideration. Thank-you for your informative insight.

  • Sorry Don…. 3 out of 8 is my count …. but then if we all thought the same it would be a damn boring world. ! ! 🙂

  • Do we want a Lawyer (used to making laws) to run the Business of Nanaimo, or a Businessman (used to running a successful business).