A few months back, Neil Belenkie said, he sat through a council meeting and shook his head as council took nearly two hours discussing a garbage container that was too heavy to lift.
“That’s why no one shows up to these meetings,” the mayoral contender told The Tri-City News last month. “I think that I can improve the productivity based on governance.”
A firefighter with the Sasamat Volunteer Fire Department, Belenkie is taking a different approach in his campaign than the other two candidates seeking to to replace longtime Mayor Ralph Drew: He believes his experience running public and private companies around the world will help him make Belcarra run more efficiently — more like a business than a civic bureaucracy.
Belenkie fell in love with the community while he travelled around Metro Vancouver as a pharmaceutical rep; he and his wife have called the village home for the past 11 years.
And although Belenkie has little political experience, he said he wanted to go for the top job rather than run for councillor “because I’d like to make the village a better place.”
A councillor, he said, “doesn’t have the same degree or influence the mayor does. The mayor sets the tone for the village. The mayor is responsible for holding everybody — including the councillors — responsible for policies they’re supposed to deliver on.”
When it comes to guiding principles should he be elected mayor of Belcarra, Colm Cole said he’ll rely on his pledge to village residents to be transparent, accessible and fiscally responsible.
“My feeling is that the village can just be run better,” said Cole, a resident for 22 years whose resume includes being a private pilot, department head of anesthesia at St. Paul’s Hospital and an astronaut finalist with the Canadian Space Program.
Running for mayor isn’t something the semi-retired Cole wanted to do, he said.
Over the years, Cole watched the council make, what he calls, “the wrong decisions” and sunk the municipality into debt, including a $180,000 deficit on its operating budget.
And he compared the village’s spending to that of Lions Bay, “which seems to be run much better,” he said, holding the line on such small items as councillor and mayor expenses.
Cole, who has never run for civic government nor been part of a village committee or task force, said he would like to tackle big capital projects like road improvements and hooking up the remaining one third of village residents to the potable water system.
With 28 years under his belt as a village councillor, Jamie Ross believes he’s the best equipped candidate to replace Ralph Drew as mayor.
“I’m experienced, I’ve got proven leadership and I’m able to get things done,” he told The Tri-City News last month. “Like the residents in the village of Belcarra, I think this is a special place and it’s worth investing time and leadership in.”
A former School District 43 human resources manager, Ross started his civic service a year after he and his wife moved to Belcarra in 1989; he was one of the few new candidates in Metro Vancouver to unseat an incumbent, he said.
Over the years, Ross said, he has been an effective collaborator, been open minded and helped council establish new policies such building a park bypass road, updating the zoning bylaw and setting up reserves for future — and unanticipated — projects.
Still, much work needs to be done for the village’s 700 residents, he said.
Door knocking since mid-August, the retiree said he has heard about the need to control forest fires (after two record firefighting seasons) and the push to control parking around Belcarra Regional Park, where some 800,000 people visit each summer.