Currently an alternate, Keith Wilson would like to become the new regional director for Area A.
Wilson is running to replace retiring director Alec McPherson in the Regional District of Nanaimo’s Cassidy, Cedar, Yellow Point, South Wellington area. There are two candidates; the other is Sharon Thomson.
“Over the past two years, various people in the community were kind of poking at me and saying Alec is going to retire, you’d better step up. Finally they convinced me I should do it,” Wilson said.
He says his experience will be an asset. As an alternate, he receives courier packages of information once or twice a week from the RDN. Wilson would chat with McPherson about Area A-specific topics and fill in at about four meetings per year.
Wilson said he thinks Area A had good representation under McPherson and Wilson wants to build on that with his own identity.
“Probably I will reach out a little more into the other parts, South Wellington and Cassidy and Cedar-by-the-Sea,” Wilson said. “Alec was lucky because he knew key people in every corner of the area, so he could get on the phone and kind of find out what was going on. I don’t have that kind of reach into the community yet.”
Wilson said he wants to take up an unfinished project that McPherson has worked on, the trail from Morden Colliery Historic Provincial Park into Cedar.
On the campaign trail so far he’s found that road safety is something that resonates with voters. He thinks some of the area’s main thoroughfares such as Cedar Road and Yellow Point Road see traffic moving too fast considering the volume of cyclists and pedestrians, including kids going to school. Roads aren’t in the regional district’s jurisdiction, but Wilson said he’ll advocate for solutions like better road design and pathways.
He also anticipates the official community plan review in 2019 and says he’ll generally be against projects like big box stores along the highway in Area A.
“Cautious development is basically my words for not applying urban planning concepts to rural communities,” he said.
Area A is positioned right next to the City of Nanaimo and its eight RDN directors, and Wilson said he thinks there’s a good working relationship there. He said he intends to have open lines of communication with other directors so that when discussion reaches the board table, all sides have an understanding of the others’ position.
“The city councillors have been fairly careful, fairly cautious about things where we bump into one another,” he said. “They are respectful of Area A’s jurisdiction and vice-versa.”
Wilson is the chief administrative officer of Nanaimo Youth Services and since moving to Vancouver Island in the ’90s has been a consultant with First Nations and non-profits. Previously, he worked in corporate communications in industry in Alberta and was a two-term councillor in Airdrie, just outside Calgary.
He is a shepherd on his acreage in Cedar, but doesn’t think his experience herding sheep will help in politics.
“Probably not,” he said. “I can outmuscle sheep.”
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