Election 2014: Trio of candidates run for mayor’s chair in Lantzville

DISTRICT OF LANTZVILLE – Residents have a pick of three mayoral candidates so far in this year's civic election.

The civic election is heating up in the District of Lantzville with the largest-ever leadership race.

The rural district is seeing a three-way fight for the mayor’s chair so far, with incumbent mayor Jack de Jong and three-term councillor Joe Bratkowski announcing their candidacies last week. They join Colin Haime, a former mayor of Lantzville, who announced his bid in early September.

It’s the largest civic leadership race Lantzville has seen since becoming a municipality in 2003. In 11 years and four elections, there has never been more than two contenders for the seat and twice the position was won by acclamation. Until 2011, there had also only ever been one person whose laid claim to the mayoral title. Haime, who kept his seat for three terms, lost to de Jong in 2011.

This race gives people choice and brings a selection agendas to attention, according to Alexander Netherton, political studies professor at Vancouver Island University.

“Going from no municipality to a municipality with acclamation twice and then three candidates – I’d smile,” he said, adding it’s a “healthy thing.”

Haime was the first to hand in his nomination papers Friday. He says his bid is not about regaining his seat, but a continued interest in helping lead Lantzville forward.

He believes the community will face challenges around implementing a water agreement, finance and development and needs leadership with knowledge and experience.

Among his priorities are protecting the character and lifestyle of Lantzville, which he says includes putting existing residents first.

He also wants to see reduced spending and a policy to require public consultation on decisions and the regular release of in camera minutes.

Incumbent de Jong, a former director of operations and systems management for Bell Canada International, says he’d like to contribute more to the community if he can.

Under his leadership, council signed a memorandum of understanding with the Foothills developer, addressed the issue of urban agriculture and inked a water agreement with the City of Nanaimo.

Now de Jong said his objectives involve seeing pipe laid for water connections and meeting community requirements made difficult by limited water, such as seniors’ housing.

Bratkowski is a newcomer to the mayoral race, but has been involved in Lantzville politics for more than 21 years, including as chairman of the Lantzville Improvement District.

He says he has a different leadership style than the current mayor and his predecessor, believing his role would be a facilitator –  someone who would spread work around and involve everybody. If elected, his first task would be to hold a strategic planning session to collect ideas and choose priorities, he said.

Bratkowski said he’d also like to move forward on the water agreement, including getting information on timelines and costs for those who will vote on service, as well as see an expanded sewer system, downtown revitalization and a core services review.