On Nov. 15, Hazelton area residents will take to the polls to vote in the 2014 local government elections.
Only three seats will be determined by the vote, with all other candidates running unopposed.
Here we profile each of the candidates for the contested seats.
District of New Hazelton Mayor Candidates
A familiar face at the Skeena Bakery in New Hazelton, Rob Henwood has lived in the area for more than 30 years. The former mailman and schoolbus driver was originally based in the Kispiox Valley before he moved to New Hazelton about 11 years ago. In addition to volunteering at the bakery, a not-for-profit-run business which provides training opportunities for people with disabilities, he is a small-business owner who runs a mechanical workshop.
This is Henwood’s second attempt at running for mayor. If elected, he would like to see more of a focus on making changes to encourage highway motorists to stop and spend time in the community. He wants the District to become more involved in encouraging small-business growth by providing grants for business-owners who commit to the town in the long-term.
“My main concern with New Hazelton is the stand-still thing is not going to work. Everything will bypass us and we will be just another statistic. We’ve held ourselves pretty well I think since the logging has gone. We have to open our doors, we have to slow down our traffic so people can see what we have.”
A resident of the Hazeltons for more than 30 years, incumbent Mayor Lowry originally moved to the area to take up a job with the RBC Royal Bank, where she worked for more than 40 years before she retired. Lowry is currently a board member at the Roche View Lodge senior’s complex and the Hagwilget Trust. She is also the New Hazelton representative for the Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine. Before she was elected as mayor in 2011, Lowry was a councillor for the District of New Hazelton for 20 years.
At the end of her first term, she says she has enjoyed the role to date and wants to be reelected to continue her work on projects she is passionate about, such as plans for a new ice arena. She said she would also like to see more growth in the business sector locally.
“I still care about the town, I still would like to see some progress. I don’t know how much more we will get without the industry here but I really do care about the town and want to do the best I can to continue on and be fiscally responsible. We are debt-free and very careful fiscally with our money.”
Coast Mountains School District 82 (Hazeltons)
Originally from the Kootenays, McCrory moved to the Hazeltons 22 years ago and she has three children aged 10, 12 and 17. She is a member of the Early Childhood Education Network, the executive for Hazelton Minor Hockey and she is on the Wrinch Memorial Hospital advisory board. She has been on elementary and high school Parent Advisory Councils (PACs) and, until this year, she was the chair of the District PAC. She is also involved with committees on the B.C. Confederation of PACs. McCrory works as an administrator for the Upper Skeena Development Centre.
Through her long-term involvement as a parent in the school system, she said she has developed an understanding of the Upper Skeena region. She expressed concern over a proposal to transfer Grade 7 classes from Hazelton area schools to the Hazelton Secondary School.
“Most important to me is the students and that they have a successful educational experience. The other things that are concerns for me are graduation numbers. We have very low statistics on graduation in the Upper Skeena area and we really need to work on that and I think we need to support that from early childhood all the way up. The other issue I see is that we need more support for special needs.”
Raised in Hagwilget, Joseph was the first person from his village to graduate from high school. He left the region to study at school and university before returning in 1992 to commence a career in forest management, with a focus on social development aspects. A Wet’suwet’en man, he is a director on the board of the global charity Forest Stewardship Council. Joseph’s daughter is a school teacher, as was his wife until her retirement recently, and he has a niece and nephews attending public school in the Hazelton area. He credits public education as the key to his own success and wants to see the needs of other First Nation students represented in the school district. If elected, he would aim to ensure education met students’ cultural needs, and to focus on engaging parents in the education of their children.
“Given that 88 to 89 per cent of the students in Hazelton area schools are First Nation students, there is a great need for a trustee who understands their challenges at the deepest and most intimate level. I am well prepared to work for students … in building and maintaining a school system that reflects priorities, values and expectations of the Hazeltons.”
Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine Candidates (Electoral Area B)
Born and raised in the Hazeltons, Dean Paranich is a small-business owner, a husband and a father of two daughters and a son. In addition to running the Town Pantry at Chevron in New Hazelton, he educates school children about how to avoid drugs and alcohol as an instructor for the RCMP’s D.A.R.E program. He is also an auxiliary member of the RCMP and he has been involved with highway rescue, fire department and Jaws of Life services. Paranich lives in Two Mile and loves the Hazeltons area for its outdoor lifestyle.
This is his third attempt at being elected to the Regional District board and, if successful, he hopes to see more collaboration and cooperation between different community groups and organizations in the Hazelton area. He is also passionate about addressing drug and alcohol abuse problems.
“Alcohol and drug abuse needs to be the top priority in this area. It takes a terrible toll on people here and I think, directly or indirectly, it is also responsible for many of the various crimes. We do have a lot of crime in our area and a lot of it stems from alcohol and drug abuse.”
The existing Regional District board member representing the Hazeltons, Pierre moved to the region in 2007 on a recommendation that it was “the most beautiful place in the world.” In addition to working as a developmental education instructor for the North West Community College, she is on the boards for the library, the planned ice arena and the Skeena TV Association, which provides local people with free access to TV and radio channels.
With eight of the 11 communities she represents at the Regional District being First Nations, she said social justice for Aboriginal people was a priority. She hopes to continue to play a role in ensuring communities are able to benefit from their lands and resources.
“There’s a lot happening in terms of development, or proposed development anyway. We together can influence some of the events in terms of environmental protection or sharing some of the benefits of development so that we’re not caught in a boom and bust cycle. We have to have people properly compensated for their land and resources, particularly the First Nations, which so far have been marginalized in some ways.