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Pemberton returns mayor to top spot, elects mix of new and familiar faces to council

Voter turnout up slightly from past years
Pemberton Mayor Mike Richman will return to the Village’s highest office for a third term, with a council made up of familiar faces and newcomers.

Village of Pemberton council is set to welcome two brand new faces to its table after the Oct. 15 municipal election.

Katrina Nightingale, a local teacher who won 587 votes, and lawyer Laura Ramsden, 559 votes, will join incumbent Ted Craddock, 567 votes, and Jennie Helmer, a two-term councillor who last served in 2018. Helmer garnered 748 votes. 

Mayor Mike Richman, meanwhile, won his third term with 543 votes, edging out David MacKenzie’s 303 votes and Chadi Abouhalka’s 34. 

“The most exciting part about local government is you bring five different people together,” Richman said. “We have the ability to change pathways to each other’s brains, bring new ideas to each other and, collectively—it might sound cheesy, but I do believe it—come to the best decision for Pemberton. I think we have that in front of us. We have five different individuals and I think it’s going to be really exciting.”

For his part, Richman said he was hopeful he would face re-election, but he didn’t take anything for granted after he was acclaimed in 2018. 

“This was a different campaign and a different time with everything that’s going on in the last year,” he said. “I’m feeling relieved, I’m feeling tired, and I’m feeling excited.”

Pemberton’s two new councillors, likewise, say they went into election night feeling hopeful—and now they’re ready to learn.

“I’ve never worked in municipal government in a political sense,” Ramsden said. “There’s definitely going to be a learning curve, but I do think, given my background, I’m in a position where I can respond to that learning curve in a pretty quick way.”

While she’s only lived in Pemberton for two and a half years, Ramsden will offer a perspective shared by a large demographic of locals. 

“[I’m] someone relatively early in their career. I’m hoping to have a family sometime soon. Affordability, housing, and employment in the area, those issues have a very personal connection for me,” she said. 

Nightingale, meanwhile, pointed out that the newly elected council represents a strong cross-section of the community, with backgrounds ranging from health-care to agriculture and the environment.  

“I know for all of us, it wasn’t a reactionary thing that made people want to [run]; it was a proactive thing,” she said. “Everyone who ran is doing it because they love Pemberton.”

Nightingale had to overcome major emotional challenges during the campaign following the death of her mother. While she nearly pulled out of the race, in the end, she persevered. 

“I knew, truly, that she would’ve wanted me to. I know now with four years ahead, it was absolutely the right decision,” she added. 

One lesson Nightingale learned through campaigning that she plans to bring to her new position? “People are drawn here for the natural environment,” she said. “That was the overriding thing I’ve learned from people, and solidified my truth as well. I think I’ve been very clear on the lens I see decision-making [through]: that stewardship lens.”

Voter turnout for the election was 36.6 per cent in Pemberton, up from both 2018, when it was 30.1 per cent, and 2014, which saw 35.6 per cent of eligible voters cast ballots. 

“Municipal government really affects your day-to-day life,” Richman said. “[Municipal politicians] are most accessible to you. It does make me sad that local elections get less turnout than federal or provincial. I would like to see closer to 50 per cent at least.”

He added: “I did sense, out on the street, people were more engaged than in past elections … I’m really hopeful that the conversation will stay open.”

Meanwhile, for school trustee in the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District’s Electoral Area C, voters re-elected Rebecca Barley for a fifth term.