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Three new councillors elected in Pemberton, fourth up for grabs in official recount

Niki Vankerk ties with Alan LeBlanc

The turnout was slightly down for the Pemberton Municipal Election this year with 568 votes cast out of the roughly 1,555 qualified voters (preliminary numbers). That made for a voter turnout of 33.51 per cent, the lowest in Sea to Sky by more than seven per cent.

While there are probably a lot of different reasons why voters avoided the polls on Saturday, including snow in Whistler, one of them might have been the early acclamation of Mayor Jordan Sturdy to a second term with no other challengers for mayor, as well as the acclamation of school board trustee Pat Mackenzie. That left voters with a choice of seven candidates for four council positions.

The election was a close one. James Linklater earned the most votes with 354, followed by Mike Richman with 331 and incumbent Ted Craddock with 318. Newcomer Niki Vankerk tied Alan LeBlanc for the fourth council seat after two recounts, and a judge will now decide the issue.

Linklater said he was both pleased and humbled by the fact he received the most votes.

"I have to take that as the people have spoken, and that what I was proposing to do as my approach and priorities resonated with people," he said. "I take that as a strong mandate in moving forward to help Pemberton be the best it can be."

Like other successful candidates, Linklater's campaign focused on the business environment and the importance of keeping and attracting businesses.

"We have to retain the business we have before we pursue attracting businesses and growth," he said. "In my platform I spoke to engaging the Chamber (of Commerce) and Tourism Pemberton and a cross section of businesses and industries to understand the hurdles and how we can work together to minimize those."

Linklater said he would also continue to be available and will engage the opportunity at every opportunity. "I know people appreciated the fact that I was out there and available, and that's something I will pursue moving forward."

Ted Craddock said his goal was to continue council's work for the past three years, working within budgets and finances to keep taxes low while also looking for opportunities that benefit the community - such as the skate park and bike park.

"I want to make sure when we find projects or make capital purchases that we plan ahead and put money in reserves so we can continue to pay cash for things," he said. "I don't want to put the community in any kind of debt going forward, that's something I feel strongly about. And at the same time making sure we keep any property tax increases to a minimum."

Craddock said he was disappointed with the turnout and said one of his priorities this term is to get young people more involved. "I'd like to take a look at that, whether we go to online voting or use social media, because that's what young people do," he said. "It would be nice if more people took time to be part of the election. I know we're all so busy, but people should take the time to vote."

Mike Richman said one of his first priorities is to catch up on all the current issues before council before the first meeting. One of his personal goals is to improve recreation.

"Recreation is an obsession of mine, and there are a couple of projects in the works like fixing or replacing the old gym - that's something I will take a lot of interest in," he said.

Like other candidates, he also has an interest in enhancing and diversifying business.

"I will definitely make time to meet with the chamber and business groups and see what they need to support their businesses," he said. "A lot of people are concerned about the future, long term jobs and the variety of jobs. A lot of young families are coming to Pemberton, but we also see some moving out because they're worried about employment. A lot of people work in Whistler, which is great, but I want to be sure we're building as many long-term jobs as we can. It's a matter of promoting the industries we have, and engaging the leaders in every industry to find out how we can help them to grow - whether it's tourism or agriculture, or this hydro project for Pemberton, or a school."