Mark Fisher may be taking a breather from political office, but he isn’t going anywhere or losing his passion for local government.
After two terms, the current Regional District of Bulkley Neckako Area A (Smithers rural) director won’t be running again in the upcoming municipal election.
“Time, it all boils down to time,” he cited as his reason for stepping back. “I have my own business, which has grown over the last few years and I just need to focus on that for a bit.”
He said being in local politics is a big commitment. He explained that a person needs to be prepared when having meetings, when making decisions, to what they are talking about and do a lot of research to understand all the issues.
He said the other part of it is, is that you always need to be available. Fisher stressed that local politicians represent the community and some people are demanding. It takes some effort to be open-minded and fair.
However, Fisher loved his time spent serving on the board and it wasn’t an easy decision to step back.
Fisher has always been active in the community and got involved with the RDBN after being asked to consider running eight years ago, which had sort of been a dream of his.
When he was in university he thought he wanted to be prime minister. Fisher got a degree in public administration and a bachelor of public admin which led him to be involved in the nonprofit side of the business world.
“I kind of gave up on the political stream until basically, I was asked to consider it eight years ago.”
He spent the last couple of terms focusing on community engagement and championing community initiatives.
“I’m not one who thinks that government should be taking things on, I think things need to come from the community,” he said.
“And I mean, we have a great community that does that. That’s one of the most positive things [to come from serving on the RDBN] is just listening to community groups and the momentum that they’ve had and really take that forward, find creative ways to support projects.”
Another big accomplishment Fisher is proud of from his time on the board circles around waste management.
“Just having the conversation about how we can do better and advocacy on a higher level, some of the things our hands are tied, even though local government or regional districts are in charge of solid waste, our hands are often tied in terms of opportunities.”
Fisher explained that RDBN has different challenges when it comes to waste management because there is lower population density and bigger distances between properties and services.
“So it makes everything harder, whether it’s solid waste, or whatever the issue is, it’s always different in our area,” he said. “So kind of really hammering that home to the higher level policymakers.”
He said everything is going up in price, especially when it comes to waste management. Recycling has gone up, operating landfills costs more. He said there is now a movement toward a circular economy.
“It’s not a linear thing where you extract a resource, use it and bury it. Now, those resources are going around and around in the community. And I think I’ve been involved in that on the provincial level, and had good influence so that those systems in the North will be appropriate,” he said. “If we don’t buy into the circular economy, we’re not only going to miss a lot of opportunities, but we’ll just continue to spend more money on garbage and landfill.
“So we need to kind of get on board with that. And I think I’ve helped form that discussion on a provincial level that includes the northern realities. Some people still think that they can just produce garbage, but it’s changing. The realities of what we can afford are changing.”
Fisher is also happy with the work he did on the recreation file.
“I know not everybody’s a fan of it, but I think I’m happy with the work we did towards getting a foundation at the regional district and supporting groups and projects. Especially during COVID, it was amazing to see the amount of recreation happening in our area and even to attract and retain young people. They want [a] community and recreation, the little areas are going to be key to for that so I’m happy about that.”
Fisher has a produce and flower farm, which has grown in recent years.
“It’s like double time in the summer, and now has turned into a year-round business, so that’s the main thing I do,” he said. He added he wants to still be engaged in the community, just in a different capacity.
“When you’re on the RD, you can’t really be too involved with community groups that you’re trying to support. Because sometimes there’s conflict. I’ve stepped back a bit from being involved in more of the community side of things, just trying to support them and work with them. But, I think there’ll be opportunities to kind of get back into more of that, that approach. And now I can work with local government to really support those groups.”
He said another reason he isn’t running for reelection is because the agriculture industry is booming right now and he wants to focus on helping young people get involved in the growing business. There is a huge interest in local food lately.
“There’s really a lot more chance of success right now than there has been in the past. And there’s some real competent and amazingly motivated young people,” he said.
Fisher isn’t closing the door on returning to politics, but for now, he’s going to take a break and be grateful for his time as director. He is hoping to still be useful to the community, just in a different way.
“We have an amazing community that is engaged and passionate and to me, I felt like the luckiest director because people were always calling me. I think we have an extra level of engagement, which makes it difficult, but it also makes it so rewarding.
“I couldn’t imagine representing a community that didn’t care about things. It was (an) amazing time and the amount you learn not only about process, every issue, every issue under the sun, everything falls on local government, whether it’s their legal jurisdiction or not. So you need to know everything, it’s just intense. Those are amazing opportunities. I’m gonna miss it. And you know, maybe I’ll be back, but I just need a break for now.”