The number of people planning a run for a seat on Kelowna city council is growing,
While not all the people who have picked up nomination papers at City Hall have publicly announced that they will run with the official nomination period still three weeks away, two well-known locals have announced they plan to have their names on the ballot.
Long-time incumbent councillor Andre Blanleil, the last of the sitting councillors to make his re-election plans public, and former Kelowna fire chief Gerry Zimmermann have both announced they plan to run in the Nov. 19 election.
Blanleil, who has sat on council since 1993, will seek a seventh term after toying with the idea earlier this year of not running again.
An unabashed pro-business voice on council, Blanleil has been critical of his council colleagues for taking the city in directions he feels are not helping improve its economy or the issues he feels are of greatest concern to residents.
Blanleil said he believes the biggest issue is traffic, but council did not tap into the wealth of stimulus funding offered by the province and federal government in recent years to pay for building more roads in the city.
Instead, he said council’s transportation focus has been on transit, a position he says is wrong because “if traffic doesn’t move, buses don’t move.”
Without naming names, Blanleil said he feels change on council is needed and the local government needs to move away from dealing with issues he considers a waste of time, such as the backyard chicken debate.
He is also critical of the city spending $4 million on a bike lane on Gordon Drive, something he called “a great thing (for some) but not my priority.”
Zimmermann, who led the city’s fire department for 15 years after 19 years as a local firefighter, is now considered somewhat of a legendary figure in the city because of his leadership of the fire department during the 2003 Okanagan Mountain Park wildfire and his battle back from a serious life-threatening illness a few years ago.
But in making his election campaign announcement, he down-played all that.
“When I was sick, it seemed like people thought they owed me something from the (2003) fire. But they didn’t owe me anything.”
He said he was part of a team that fought that fire and that’s what he wants to be as a member of city council. He feels there is a need for change on council, a familiar refrain from several candidates who have announced they are running in recent days.
Health wise, Zimmermann said he now feels better than he did before he got sick. He feels its time to give back to a community he says has given him and his family so much over the years.
“We need to see some enthusiasm when it comes to the future of Kelowna,” he said.
“And I look forward to being part of that enthusiasm.”
According to City Hall, 38 people have now picked up papers to run for the eight available councillor positions, not including Zimmermann and Blanleil. Thirty-two of those people have allowed their names to be made public.
Eight people have now picked up papers to run for mayor with three refusing to have their names made public. They include current mayor Sharon Shepherd and former mayor Walter Gray.
As of Thursday, two more names were added to the list of people who have pick up papers, Cal Condy for mayor and Ainsley Kling for council.
The actual nomination period for the election runs from Oct. 4 to 14.
This year, anyone running needs a minimum of 25 nominator signatures, up from the two in previous elections.