With no opposition, District of Kent’s mayor-elect Sylvia Pranger’s Saturday night wasn’t as suspenseful as it was for most mayor-hopefuls around the province.
Nonetheless, Pranger is excited to again take on the role of mayor. The incumbent councillor served as mayor from 2000 to 2006 before spending six years on the province’s Agricultural Land Commission and starting her councillor term in 2014.
Now Pranger is again taking a seat at the head of the table and says she’s looking forward to working with the District’s two returning candidates: Susan Spaeti and Duane Post, alongside two fresh faces on council: Stan Watchorn and Kirsten Schwichtenberg.
While Watchorn has experience serving both as mayor and councillor in the Village of Harrison, he and Schwichtenberg are still new to Kent council.
“It is a fairly steep learning curve, it’s all new if you haven’t been involved,” Pranger said. “They will have to sit with staff and look at our strategic plan, read the Official Community Plan (OCP). That’ll take them some time but I think staff and the rest of council will work well with them.”
The District is still in the process of seeking public input on topics like retail cannabis and short-term vacation rentals, which council will eventually have to make decisions on.
But for now, Pranger’s plan is to continue the work of council, with no big changes on the horizon.
“We just want to continue the work and keep going down the same path,” she said. “We’ll do a strategic planning session but we work off a five-year-plan.”
While the strategic planning session helps council set some short and long-term goals, Pranger says there’s no plans to update council’s overarching planning document: the OCP.
“That’s a document that we’ll stick to.”
Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) decisions are a topic that comes up frequently when discussions turns to the future of Kent. At the all-candidates meeting earlier this month, each councillor candidate expressed firm opposition to removing land from the ALR.
Pranger, who has served as a a member of the ALC, is without a doubt, pro-farmer. But she acknowledges that ALR decisions aren’t always black or white.
“Protecting farm land isn’t just about protecting the land, it’s about supporting agriculture and being supportive of the farmers and things they need to do,” she said. “To me, it’s a big picture…”
“Should there be an application it would be [judged] on its own merit.”
Another topic that might be worked into a new strategic plan? Attracting local business.
Pranger said the promotion of local shopping is “absolutely necessary.”
“The more dollars we keep in our community, the more we’re able to support each other and make it easier for the businesses to pay their taxes,” she said. “And it just builds community.”
Pranger said welcoming small business owners with “meet and greets” – the same way Kent welcomes medical professionals – could be key to building up Agassiz’s small business scene.
“We show them the community and hopefully make them feel as welcome as we can and that way they’ll stay.”