Nanaimo’s surrounding rural areas have new representation.
Voters in the Regional District of Nanaimo’s Area A (Cedar-South Wellington-Cassidy-Yellow Point) and Area C (Extension-Nanaimo Lakes-East Wellington-Pleasant Valley) both elected new area directors.
Jessica Stanley, former Nanaimo-Ladysmith school trustee, is the new Area A director, while Lauren Melanson, who has been Area C’s alternate regional director, will take over as director.
Stanley won her seat by just 40 votes, earning 359 votes to edge out runner-up Kate Poirier, who earned 319 votes. Incumbent Keith Wilson received 123 votes.
Melanson won by a wider margin, earning 217 votes to finish ahead of incumbent Charles Pinker with 131 votes.
“It was very exciting, it was close…” said Stanley. “Really, overall I’m just thrilled and excited that I’m going to be able to do some of this work for the community.”
She noted that voter turnout wasn’t huge, which makes her wonder how she can connect with community members, communicate with them and try to engage them in what’s happening in the area and the regional district as a whole. Stanley received comparatively stronger support at ballot boxes in South Wellington than in Cedar and said she recognizes she represents multiple different communities.
“I want to put a lot of intention into making sure that I reach out to all of Cedar, all of South Wellington, all of Cassidy and Yellow Point and do my best to make sure that their voices are represented at the table and do the best to make sure that community amenities are provided throughout the whole area,” she said.
Stanley added that she’s looking forward to working with the next RDN board, and also creating connections with neighbouring areas of the Cowichan Valley Regional District.
“I’m feeling really positive about this board,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to working with them from a regional perspective, but also doing my best to convey what I see as incredible value that Area A offers to the regional district as a whole.”
Melanson said when the election results were posted, she was “very excited” but also immediately noticed that vote counts varied greatly by community. On election day she received 73 per cent of the vote in Extension but only six per cent of the vote in East Wellington.
“I’m hoping to do my best to represent both East Wellington and the Extension area, seeing as there’s clearly a divide right down the middle,” she said, adding that she intends to engage with community members in East Wellington and also hopes to have an alternate director from that part of Area C.
Melanson will be taking over the seat that used to be held by her neighbour Maureen Young, who died about a year ago.
“She really sparked a passion in me for local politics,” Melanson said, adding that her own experience as alternate director the past few months has allowed her to get a sense of the work and the processes at the RDN.
While she represents a relatively small population in Area C, she sees opportunity to collaborate with colleagues in other rural areas of the regional district who she said face similar issues, for example fire services and access to water.
Melanson looked at other election results around the RDN with interest to see the make-up of the next board.
“There’s some old names and some new faces. I think it’ll be a good mix,” she said. “There’ll be some strong opinions, which I think always bring healthy debate.”
No election was required in Area B (Gabriola Island), where Vanessa Craig was acclaimed, or in Area E (Nanoose Bay), where Bob Rogers was acclaimed.