A Salmon Arm Secondary Grade 12 student won admiration at this year’s Union of British Columbia Municipalities conference in Whistler.
An elated Gray Simms, who sits on the Salmon Arm Youth Council, was escorted to UBCM by Columbia Shuswap Regional District Area D director Rene Talbot where he met provincial ministers, MLAs and various municipal mayors and directors from across the province. He was also included in several UBCM meetings and events.
One meeting dear to his heart involved Agriculture Minister Lana Popham, who was meeting with CSRD staff and directors in response to a request from Area A Rural Golden director Karen Cathcart.
Cathcart had asked for the meeting to share concerns about the province’s regulations on abattoirs and the need for ranchers and farmers to be able to slaughter their own animals.
Simms says CSRD Chair Rhona Martin invited him to go to the meeting with Popham and was excited to hear the conversations between the minister and the regional district.
“It is one of the subjects that has come up at our dinner table and I have heard many other voices too. I was happy to hear the discussions were being held, not just at farmers’ tables but at municipal and provincial tables as well,” says the 17-year-old student, who lives on a Silver Creek farm. “That’s really hopeful, and I hope it will help small farmers to slaughter their animals in a much less stressful way and allow small farmers to grow their businesses rather than giving monopolies to big agri businesses.”
Popham was equally impressed with Simms.
“I was immediately impressed by his knowledge and passion. I am sure that Salmon Arm residents are extremely proud of young people like Gray who are representing their community in such an amazing way,” writes Popham in an Oct. 24 email. “Congratulations Gray on your hard work on Salmon Arm Youth Council and I wish you all the best in the future.”
His enthusiasm to attend the event began over a dinner table conversation; this one last Christmas with his mom’s cousin Carolyn Black, corporate officer at the Thompson Okanagan Regional District.
Following up on Simms’ enthusiasm, Black, a former CSRD employee, asked Talbot if he would be willing to mentor him and show him the ropes.
“He was a great mentor and it was a wonderful experience,” Simms says, pointing out that all the delegates were accepting and encouraging. “I think they were probably happy to see youth involved. My big takeaway is that local politics really do matter; the people working at the local level really do more than we give them credit for.”
Simms is also impressed with the Southern Interior Local Government Association, the only organization in the province that, upon approval, allows interested youths to attend the annual conference.
The young man’s interest in politics began long ago through reading newspapers and watching election coverage to see how political systems work.
Simms says that while he might like one day to run for an office that is working for the good of the people, he is leaning towards obtaining a science degree first – with some political science courses thrown in with his favourite mix of math, physics and chemistry.
The family farm offers many opportunities to work, caring for the cattle, horses, goats, chickens and his mother’s pet pig Peggy, who is four and, according to Simms, “stuck in the perpetual grumpy teenager mode.”
In his down time, he likes to curl, spend time with friends and make music on his cornet.
“I am profusely thanking CSRD, TNRD and the city,” he says, pointing out he was inspired to go to UBCM after speaking with another SAS student who attended last year. “And to SILGA as well, the program is forward-thinking and I wish we saw that across the province. SILGA’s is the only one across the province.”
CSRD directors were also profuse in their comments about Simms at the Oct. 18 board meeting in Salmon Arm.
Chair Rhona Martin was impressed with Simms’ awareness.
“I think his family and his mom should be proud of how he carried himself.”
“His report (on UBCM) is the best presentation on a convention I have seen in 13 years,” said Salmon Arm director Kevin Flynn. “He did a great job and now two people from our area have gone with SILGA in the past two years.”
Added Area A Rural Golden director Karen Cathcart, “Wow! I looked at the report and went wow!”
Flynn meanwhile, credits groundwork done by Coun. Tim Lavery and SAS teacher Graham Gomme’s civics class that resulted in the Salmon Arm Youth Council that makes Salmon Arm a provincial leader in youth engagement in politics.