Helmer won't seek re-election 

Blundell hasn't decided if he will seek another term on Pemberton council

Village of Pemberton Councillor Jennie Helmer has confirmed she will not seek re-election in November.

Helmer, a first-time councillor who has found herself at odds with colleagues on agricultural issues, cites a number of reasons why she won’t return as a councillor, among them that she has “cheese and honey to make.”

“There are many mountain bike rides, rock climbs and ski-touring trips calling me,” she said in an e-mail. “I have a niece to play with. I have an exciting financial planning business that is taking off.”

As a councillor Helmer has focused on issues related to agriculture and the environment. In May of 2007 she introduced a motion to reduce the use of plastic bags and disposable coffee cups in the VOP by 80 per cent by 2010. The motion passed.

More recently, however, she has been at odds with fellow councillors over a proposed subdivision of land at 7476 Prospect. The owner, Bob Menzel, has sought to subdivide the approximately 30-acre property into nine separate units and have 20 acres left over as a common farming area.

In order to subdivide the property, VOP council would have had to forward Menzel’s proposal to the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC), a provincial agency that oversees agricultural land.

Helmer argued at the June 3 meeting that subdividing the property would take land out of the Agricultural Land Reserve, land in which agricultural use is a priority, while Councillor David MacKenzie, who supported the subdivision, said he didn’t want to tell a landowner what to do with his own property.

Council ultimately voted at the meeting not to forward Menzel’s proposal to the ALC, but discussed the proposal again at on June 17. It was expected that council would again discuss the proposal at their July 22 meeting.

As for her endeavours outside of council, Helmer comes from a family that has been farming potatoes in the Pemberton Valley since 1920. The Helmer farm, founded by parents Doug and Jeanette, now grows 20 varieties of organic potatoes and supplies produce to markets such as the Capers Community Market franchise, which has four locations throughout Vancouver.

Helmer has a Bachelor of Commerce in Entrepreneurial Management from Royal Roads University in Victoria. She has also been a practising paramedic for 12 years with the B.C. Ambulance Service and a massage therapist for seven years. She works on the family farm in the summer.

Councillor Mark Blundell, the longest-serving member of council, is not certain as to whether he’ll return for another term.

“I know you're probably looking for a yes or a no, but right now I'm just undecided what I'm going to do,” he said. “It's a lot of commitment for anybody to run for council and it takes a lot of your personal time away, and I'm in business and it also take as a lot of your business time away.”

Blundell was first elected to council in a 2000 by-election and has fought to preserve a “unique sense of place” in Pemberton, according to his 2005 campaign website.

He has supported developing the Downtown Village Core and the Pemberton Industrial Park and bringing in business to develop a “sustainable economy,” but has always stressed that development should happen in concert with Pemberton’s citizens and the business community.

When asked why he might not come back, Blundell said he hopes to spend more time with his family — he expects a grandson to be born within the week. But he’s not ruling out a return.

“If I feel that there are people that are running for their own agenda or for somebody else's agenda and it's not the community agenda, and it's self serving, then I will run and take them on,” he said.

Asked how he feels the current council has gelled, he said they have worked well together on certain issues and acknowledged they are “very, very strong in their opinions.”

“I think that overall we’ve had some challenges but we seem to overcome them,” he said. “I think that these challenges caused us to work a little harder.”

He also said that change is often needed on almost any governing body.

“I do believe that politicians are similar to diapers, they need to be changed frequently and for the same reason,” he said.

Local government elections across B.C. will be held Nov. 15.

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