Derek Graves might be a first-time candidate for Village of Pemberton council, but he once held the highest-ranking non-elected role within the municipality.
Technically, he was working as a contract accountant for the Village, and technically, he was only sworn in as acting Chief Administrative Officer for two weeks, while the then-CAO was on holiday—“It was quite amusing,” Graves admitted with a laugh—but it was still enough to give the now-57-year-old a peek behind the municipal government curtain.
That was about two decades ago. This time, he’s asking Pembertonians to hand him a slightly longer mandate when they head to the polls to elect a new municipal government on Oct. 15.
Graves was born in Vancouver and raised in Nanaimo, before moving to Whistler in 1993 and then north to Pemberton four years later. He and his family have called the valley home ever since.
He and his wife, Corinne, have been heavily involved in the community over their 25 years in Pemberton, from minor hockey, soccer and football leagues and community theatre to Walks for Alzheimer’s and the Salvation Army kettle campaign. He also served as president of the Pemberton Lions Club. Now, with both kids grown up and out of the house—“we’re quote unquote empty nesters with our dog,” he said—Graves said he’s ready to accept more accountability and dedicate more energy to serving his neighbours.
“I’ve always had an interest in civic, municipal politics,” he explained, including keeping up-to-date on Pemberton council meeting minutes. Even as a teenager, Graves recalls being inspired by his grandmother, who worked with BC Housing as a spokesperson for residents living in subsidized housing, and his parents, who helped build a seniors housing complex in his hometown of Nanaimo.
“I’ve always looked for ways that I can help in the community, and being at the point in my life I’m at now … this is a good time for me to give it a go,” he said.
Graves holds a degree in economics, but has spent most of his career working in accounting for the hospitality sector. Currently, he works for a financial institution. Those gigs have helped Graves develop “above average” people skills, he said.
“I enjoy talking to people, meeting people, listening to their point of view and at the end of the day helping people get either where they want to be or come to a mutually agreeable conclusion.”
If elected, Graves said he’d use those skills to build relationships with not only his constituents, but with colleagues across all levels of government so he could advocate for those constituents.
Asked to describe the biggest challenges that Pemberton is currently facing, from his perspective, Graves said he “could lump them into short-term, medium-term and long-term” categories.
Among the short-term issues he named development proposals, zoning and traffic management, while housing, aging-in-place and transportation are topics he would throw into the medium-term bucket. Long-term, he said, “there always has to be an eye to the future with services, infrastructure, water, sewer, recreation, and future development proposals that are perhaps way down the line, and planning [for them] now.” Traffic planning and the subdivision approval process are two areas he would prioritize as a councillor, Graves said.
When it comes to housing and affordability issues in particular, Graves claims it shouldn’t fall solely on municipal governments to come up with solutions. “The provincial and federal governments need to play larger roles … because it’s not just a local issue,” he added.
So why does Graves believe he’s the right person to deal with things at the municipal level? His knowledge of the corridor and his experience watching it grow over the last three decades, for one, and a collaborative, reliable spirit.
“What makes me, I think, a strong or viable candidate is having an open mind and looking across the broad spectrum of everyone’s needs,” he said. “Not just developers, not just programs, but everyone across the board, and hearing them … [I’m] willing to always talk to anyone.”
Graves joins Ted Craddock, Jennie Helmer, Katrina Nightingale, Laura Ramsden and Eli Zysman in the race for Pemberton’s four council seats. Check back with Pique in the coming weeks for profiles on all candidates.