In brief: Cowichan’s 2014 top stories

A huge windstorm in November knocked out power and downed trees throughout the Cowichan Valley. It was days before power was fully restored to all customers, and one home was crushed by a falling tree.

2014 saw another chapter opened in the case of the shooting of William Gillespie by RCMP officer Const. David Pompeo.

Pompeo was convicted of aggravated assault in the case in February of 2013.

For shooting the unarmed Gillespie in 2009, he was sentenced to two years probation and 240 hours of community service. He was also allowed to keep his firearm.

But in August a new trial was ordered after Pompeo successfully appealed the conviction.

The appeal, heard by Justice Harvey M. Groberman, Chief Justice Robert James Bauman and Justice Nicole J. Garson, concluded that Judge Wood erred in excluding the evidence of an expert witness who said the use of lethal force was in accordance with police protocols and training and so the shooting was necessary.

The appeal court also found that Judge Wood "went beyond his proper role when he made requests that evidence be tendered and when he engaged in lengthy questioning of witnesses."

Cowichan Valley residents headed to the polls in November to elect local governments for the next four years in municipal elections.

The results delivered a lot of change for many areas of the Valley.

While Jon Lefebure was returned to the mayor’s chair in the Municipality of North Cowichan after a hard-fought race against former councillor John Koury, council itself saw a significant number of new faces, with Rob Douglas, Maeve Maguire, and Joyce Behnsen all taking seats for the first time, and former mayor Tom Walker coming back to council after a term away.

In the City of Duncan, Mayor Phil Kent returned to office, winning the mayoral race handily. There were two new faces elected to council however: Roger Bruce and John Horgan.

In the Cowichan Valley Regional District there was a big turnover of directors, with Kerry Davis, Sonia Furstenau, Alison Nicholson, and Matteus Clement winning seats in the region’s south end – all newcomers to regional politics.

In Lake Cowichan Carolyn Austin and Lorna Vomacka ensured that half of the four-person council would be new going forward.

There were plenty of eyes on the school board race, as the number of seats dropped from nine to seven, and many candidates divided into teams during the election.

There was particular interest in who would be elected because the last board had been fired by the provincial government for failing to file a balanced budget, leading to two-and-a-half years of rule by a single provincially-appointed trustee.

The team of candidates calling themselves Students First came out on top, taking five of the seven seats. Rob Hutchins, Candace Spilsbury, Joe Thorne, Cathy Schmidt and Barb de Groot were all successful in their bids for office.

Independents Randy Doman and Elizabeth Croft rounded out those elected.

Federal Conservatives in the Cowichan Valley were thrilled by a January visit by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, while those of other political stripes met Canada’s leader at the gates of Brentwood College with protest signs.

It was the first time a prime minister had visited the Valley in 60 years.

The Chemainus Theatre did a huge renovation of its dining room – the first time in 20 years.

Theatre goers were treated to new sophisticated décor that brought an additional touch of class to this popular Valley spot.

The Cowichan Regional Visitor Centre held its grand opening in February.

Less than one year after shovels broke ground, the stunning $1.15-million facility quietly opened its doors in January and has seen nothing but success thus far. The project finished on time and on budget.