If you haven’t heard already, incumbent Telkwa Mayor Darcy Repen will not seek re-election in the upcoming fall.
Here’s Repen on his decision.
“I’m not going to run again. When I was campaigning four years ago, I clearly stated that I was only doing this once. I felt four years was a long enough time for me to chart the course and prioritize some things for the Village. If I achieved those objectives, it would be really clear for whatever council is coming in, as to what the next steps would be. If I wasn’t successful, I really didn’t deserve to be re-elected anyway. At this point, we’re four years in and it’s really up to the community to assess how good of a job I really did.”
And assess the public has. Repen says he was definitely under the microscope for one of his largest accomplishments as Mayor.
“The main highlight for me was refocusing the Village on what their main challenges were and in my mind, it’s financial funding. I think the previous Council had become distracted and started to chase projects that weren’t within the budget and the taxpayers of Telkwa were tapped out. Our biggest success as Council was the negotiations of the water reservoir. In 2017, residents of the Valley will remember Telkwa received $1.5 million in grant funding for this project, but it wasn’t the grant funding stream we expected. We dug our heels and turned down this grant, as it wasn’t fair to residents and I took a lot of heat for that. Since then, our Council has been extremely courageous in staying the course and we have secured a better funding stream. Ultimately this spring, we were able to secure a $3.6 million dollar grant without needing matching taxpayer dollars. That saved each household roughly $4,000.”
Repen says he never anticipated that he would run for office. He says he always considered himself more of an activist than a politician. It seems as though that focus has now changed, as Repen says he may run for a new government position.
“In my opinion, I think the course of the Village is quite clear. We need to continue to push the province for a fair funding mechanism. As it stands now, my interest lies with the provincial government. The province has a greater influence on what happens in Telkwa than the policies of the Village itself. They certainly have a lot of control over municipal funding and my problem lies with the lack of empathy they have for rural communities. I’m going to really focus on that and there’s a really good chance I will run for the regions MLA seat in the upcoming election unless the current government changes their course and does some work to correct these issues.”
Repen says the issues that face Telkwa are clear.
“The struggle lies in the fact that Telkwa is a bedroom community. In terms of revenue generation, that’s a terrible spot to be in. We are a 92% residential tax pay base, which is one of the highest percentages in the province. Ultimately what that means is, on a per capita basis, we’re just not able to generate anywhere near the type of revenues other communities such as Smithers can. Telkwa serves an extremely important purpose, especially amidst what some are calling a housing crisis in BC. We are a housing community but at the same time, residents are definitely contributing to the neighboring economies and some of that money needs to come back to Telkwa. We just need to see the provincial government recognize the value of communities like Telkwa. We need a bit of an uplift to provide some of the services people expect in the Village. Telkwa simply does not have the financial capacity and it’s purely because of that property tax mechanism.”
Although it seems simple, Repen says it’s not as easy as just telling businesses to set up shop in Telkwa.
“Businesses logically tend to gravitate towards where the hubs are such as Smithers. People that want to do business typically are attracted to that higher customer base. What I always say is we need a little bit of a push from the provincial government in the right direction. Once they do that and we have sufficient funding to address our very basic needs, then Telkwa will be off to the races.”
All business aside, Repen dealt with some medical issues during his term and says he is doing well during his recovery.
“I was hit with Strep A disease but I’m on the road to a full recovery. This morning, for example, I struggled in an interview to gather my thoughts which is unlike me. It’s definitely been a long haul and was a scary experience. I’m not totally there yet physically or mentally, but I’m getting back to normal. I’d say I’m at about 95% and the remaining 5% will come.”