Voters head to the polls on October 15 for the 2022 Municipal Election. MyBulkleyLakesNow reached out to the Mayoral candidates for Smithers to answer each of the following questions:
- Can you provide a brief bio of yourself and a photo?
- Why are you running for mayor for smithers and what makes you the best candidate?
3.How would you address housing affordability and the lack of housing in the community?
- What are other pressing issues in smithers and how would you address them?
- Any final thoughts on any topic that you would like to share?
In alphabetical order;
Gladys Atrill, Incumbent
I am Gladys Atrill, the incumbent Mayor of Smithers. I have been on Council since 2014 and
Mayor since 2020.–. I am a lifelong Smithereen and deeply committed to Smithers. I have been
actively involved in this community since I was a teen – on volunteer boards locally and
provincially. My working career was primarily in the tourism sector, including running my own
tourism business for nearly 30 years.
Murray Hawse, new
Shirley and I moved to Smithers in 1985 and have lived in Smithers ever since raising three children, a daughter and two sons. Our middle child was born with down’s syndrome and developed Autism very early. He has been a blessing but needed our full support, as a result of the challenges we faced and the support required, I started my volunteer career. I sat on the board of the Child Development Center for many years and was the fundraising Chairman. This position led me to create the Smithers Charity Golf tournament, that 30 years later and over 1 million dollars, is still going today. Many families have been helped in the Bulkley Valley and area through the Child Development Center, the toy lending library, the infant development program and the Hospital foundation to name a few. I Served over 23 years on Smithers Volunteer Fire Department as firefighter, first responder and dispatcher. Also served as Chair and Board Member for the Highroads Society serving the special needs of our community. I also served as Chair of Dik Tiy housing society that provides housing for those with special needs in our community. My 15 years in key leadership roles with my previous employer included the prestigious Ted Jones coaching program for leadership.
Why are you running for mayor for smithers and what makes you the best candidate?
I am running because I love this community – my hometown – and the job of mayor. I have the energy, interest and experience and I enjoy working on behalf of Smithers. I am committed to doing my best to ensure Smithers remains a desirable community to live, work in and play in. I have good relationships with other Mayors and Councillors across our region and in BC, and with many in the Provincial Government. Many of the challenges our community faces going forward will require collaboration with others, in particular the Provincial Government. I am a good communicator, respectful and genuinely interested in the future of the people who live in Smithers.
I am running for mayor because I love this community and now that I have stepped away from the day-to-day business world, I have the time and energy to take on the task and position of a full time Mayor. We need to put the focus back on fiscal responsibility and have an open and transparent government that engages regularly with taxpayers and voters. The pressure on municipalities to raise taxes needs to be fully understood. Analyzing why taxes have and continue to go up at double digit rates and what can be done about it requires community input and consideration? What service levels are expected and at what price? With my background in the financial Industry I understand how important it is to plan and forecast future concerns. We have known about the underfunding of infrastructure from a federal, provincial and municipal level for 20 plus years. We should have been planning and upgrading for years. Allocating tax dollars is the sole job of council and leadership guides this discussion. To be the mayor Smithers means you must be open and transparent while engaging all areas of our town and its citizens’ concerns from seniors to business owners, special interest groups and so much more. While listening to some of the open council meetings I heard comments from staff that the report cards from taxpayers and voters stated tax payers haven’t been happy. The reason for this needs to be addressed, the town only has one client and this should not be happening. I would encourage a more open transparent process and regular engagement with taxpayers and voters through town halls and any other format the new council feels advisable.
How would you address housing affordability and the lack of housing in the community?
First recognize what we have done already ;Increased private sector residential development, downtown via tax incentives; and throughout town via the Dollars to the Door program. Zoned a large section of town R2 – multi-family, approved carriage houses and secondary suites, approved multi-family development applications and provided remediated town owned land for affordable and supportive housing. Then be open to creative housing solutions from the private sector and non-profit organizations, Advocate to the Province of BC for housing and the required supports for the more vulnerable including those with mental health and addictions. Look for infill opportunities in neighbourhoods, consider raising the height limit on new builds, in order to get more units of housing per unit of land.
The issue of housing affordability and lack of housing is not only a local issue but also a provincial and federal issue and is very complex. As a municipal government there are limits to what we can and should be doing but that does not mean we can’t be creative and collaborative. Speaking with interested and affected groups it is very clear that on the supply issue there are far too many roadblocks that discourage and delay the process. From planning and design through to building, it’s clear, delays impact not only affordability but housing supply in general. Some of the issues that have been brought to my attention indicate the bureaucratic delays of the town in permitting and zoning (by-laws) have a big impact especially considering our weather window here in the North. This can be very frustrating and discouraging. We need to address this as well as I would propose forming a working group to take a hard look at where things could be changed to hopefully streamline the whole process.
What are other pressing issues in Smithers and how would you address them?
The list of issues can be long and daunting – roads, policing, airport, arena ice plants, library, skatepark, wastewater treatment, labour shortage, child care shortage, housing crisis and climate change. The way through for infrastructure is to follow the plan. Use the annual maintenance budget, while we build the reserves for the future. Utilize grant opportunities to complete big projects –like the arena ice plant, or riverbank stabilization or the library. Even with something as complex as climate change – we can follow the Community Energy and Emissions Plan that we have adopted. We must work with other organizations and levels of government to find short- and long-term solutions for homelessness, housing, need for more doctors, nurses and medical professionals. The Town cannot solve these alone.
What other pressing issues in Smithers and how to address them? That’s a loaded question. All you have to do is walk the streets, speak with folks, check out community FB pages and see the issues being talked about? There are many, all are important and need to be worked on but nothing is impossible. I am so excited about the opportunity to work with a new council seeing many new faces with lots of ideas and energy wanting to be voted in. This will create many opportunities to reshape our community, helping to get us on a better path and will see us get to where we need to be as a community.
Any final thoughts on any topic that you would like to share?
While there is hard work ahead, let’s celebrate all that is good here. Smithers is thriving, vibrant community – that is the envy of many. We are rich in recreation and in arts and culture. We have a strong, diverse economy that has supported us all for decades. For those of you who made it to the Alex Cuba Grammy Block Party – hold on to that feeling! From toddler to senior, we gathered, we danced and we felt the strength of this community. Together we can do great things.
Had nothing further to add.