Joyce Behnsen, at Waterwheel Park in Chemainus, has decided to take the plunge and run for Mayor of North Cowichan. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Behnsen running for mayor of North Cowichan

Councillor cites the need for accountability, responsibility and transparency in local government

Councillor Joyce Behnsen made up her mind in February to run for Mayor of North Cowichan in the fall municipal elections. Now, she’s making it official publicly.

“To give people a voice,” Behnsen said is the main reason she’s running.

“Because I do listen, I do care, I do take action. I know the entire region well and the issues. That’s me.”

She becomes the second North Cowichan councillor to announce their candidacy for mayor when voting is conducted Oct. 20. Al Siebring unveiled his mayoral plans July 4.

Current Mayor Jon Lefebure hasn’t announced yet if he’ll be seeking reelection. Perhaps as many as two or three more candidates are expected to emerge.

Behnsen previously put her name on the ballot for North Cowichan Mayor in the 2011 elections, finishing third in a group of five candidates. When the council terms were extended from three years to four in 2014, she was successful in her bid to become a councillor.

Behnsen admitted it’s a bit of a gamble to run for mayor because the alternative if she doesn’t emerge on top is no longer being on council, but she’s thinking positively the electorate will look favourably at her track record of acting on concerns when casting their votes.

Behnsen said she feels strongly about promoting the Cowichan Valley as a great place to do business and part of her ideals were shaped during a tenure with the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s economic development commission from 2001 to 2005.

“That’s one of my passions – the economy and the jobs and a healthy place to live,” she reasoned.

Behnsen summarized her considerable experience in so many different areas as being beneficial to her understanding and knowledge of the important issues. She has eight years in the banking industry, six in real estate and 20 years in and around construction.

“I am a people person and I am a communicator and I’m practical,” she said. “I’m very passionate about accountability, responsibility and transparency within local government. I’m very conscious of spending tax dollars.”

In November of 2017, Behnsen was accused of bullying and harassing municipal staff that resulted in her exclusion from council committees and a Code of Conduct being implemented. Behnsen noted she was simply being diligent in her job to have her inquiring emails and phone calls answered on behalf of the public.

There are numerous specific issues of concern to her that require action.

“We need police presence in Chemainus,” Behnsen noted. “I supported the hiring of two new police officers. It was changed from two to one new police officer.

“Crofton school, it needs to be demolished and the land needs to be planned for public use. Yes, it’s the School District and North Cowichan.”

She foresees a greater cooperation and consultation with the School District, the provincial government and other entities as being imperative in getting things done.

The Official Community Plan needs to be reviewed and revised, Behnsen noted, with specific attention to the Urban Containment Boundaries in examples such as the KingsView development and Donnay Drive. Some zoning bylaws have been in the works for six years, she added.

Further issues in the south end of North Cowichan that require attention are a much-needed bypass for Duncan to take the pressure off the Trans-Canada Highway, and restoration for Somenos Creek and Lake and Quamichan Lake “not 20 years from now,” she said.

“I’m all about public input,” Behnsen added. “I love these neighbourhood associations and groups having input from them at delegations at council meetings.

“I’m a hands-on mayor. I will be there (municipal hall) to interact with staff. I’ll treat it like a job.”

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