North Cowichan’s new mayor said his council comes with a “number of firsts” during its inaugural meeting on Nov. 7.
Al Siebring told the standing-room only crowd in council chambers that Debra Toporowski is the municipality’s first female First Nations councillor, Tek Manhas is North Cowichan’s first South Asian councillor and Rosalie Sawrie is the municipality’s first councillor from the LGBT community.
“While council members are elected to represent broad interests, our new councillors will bring perspectives to our debates that North Cowichan’s council has never had before,” Siebring said.
“I believe this will enrich the fabric of our discussions.”
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The new council, elected on Oct. 20, also includes incumbents Kate Marsh and Rob Douglas, as well as novice Christopher Justice.
Glen Ridgway, a former North Cowichan councillor who spent 45 years as a lawyer in Duncan, took each council members’ oath of office, while Mike Coleman, another lawyer and a multi-term mayor of the City of Duncan, gave the charge to council.
Coleman described the new council as a diverse and capable group.
“You will find your work load will be challenging and time consuming but also satisfying,” he said.
“My advice is to debate and discuss the issues with transparency and civility, listen to other’s viewpoints, as well as those of your capable staff and the citizens you represent. You are assuming an enormous responsibility and you are fortunate to be chosen to carry them out.”
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After Siebring announced the appointments of the councillors to a number of the municipality’s committees, he said that this process has been changed from previous inaugural meetings of council.
He said that in the past, councillors would be handed lists of who was appointed to what committees at the inaugural meetings and that would be the first time they would see them.
“I felt that this was less than an ideal and decided that if I were to become mayor, I would do things differently,” Siebring said.
“I’ve met with each councillor individually and then had two informal meetings with the councillors as a group to go over the process and review committee lists. They engaged with me and, to their credit, some changes were made.”
Siebring said a number of the municipality’s committees were not listed because, rather than assume they will move forward as before, he wants council to establish strategic goals and directions, and then determine which committees are needed.
“We also have two new standing committees,” he said.
“It’s been more than 100 years since North Cowichan took a look at its bylaws and a review is long overdue, so the regulatory review committee has been established. As well, we now have a First Nations relations committee that will have improving relations with our First Nations neighbours as its number-one priority.”
Siebring also thanked outgoing mayor Jon Lefebure for his many years of service to North Cowichan, as well as former councillors Tom Walker, Maeve Maguire and Joyce Behnsen from the previous council who were also at the meeting.
He said he also thanks the citizens of North Cowichan for providing the new council with their votes.
“The election itself was all about competition and to see who could get to the finish line first,” he said.
“Now there is no longer a competition and we’re all colleagues who will learn from each other. I want us all to bring out the best in each other.”