With an incumbent mayor and five incumbent councillors retaining their seats, Rick de Jong will likely stand out when he takes his seat in West Kelowna council chambers.
But there’s no questioning that he earned the spot.
With 2,879 ballots with his name checked off, de Jong earned nearly 1,000 more votes than any of the other new challengers.
The newcomer credited the success to getting his name out early.
“I started my campaign right after Labour Day weekend,” said de Jong.
“I spent a great deal of time knocking on doors. I literally knocked on thousands of doors right across the entire community. I met people on their doorstep and listened to them on their doorstep.”
The message that de Jong received was that while people were generally satisfied with their local government, some change was still necessary.
“Although they were relatively pleased how council has operated over the last four years, people were eager to see a little bit of change. I did hear, a number of times, that they were eager to see a little bit of younger blood on council.”
Aside from youth, de Jong said he will bring a fresh perspective to council.
“I’m bringing a unique perspective that I’ve gained through my years of volunteer experience.”
According to de Jong, the door knocking also helped him gain an insight into the unique character of each individual neighbourhood throughout the community.
Although de Jong had confidence that he was a strong contender to win a seat, he says election night was still a nervous one for him. “Between 8 and 9:15 p.m., when the results came out, there was a great deal of anticipation and a bit of pins and needles,”
Fifty of his supporters and campaign helpers breathed a sigh of relief when the results indicated he would have a spot on the local government for the next three years.
With Rosalind Neis unable to gain the mayor’s seat, the number of women on council has been reduced to one, so de Jong noted he was happy Carol Zanon kept her seat in order to maintain some female representation.
High on de Jong’s list of priorities is strengthening the relationship with the business and investment community in West Kelowna. “I know council has already made some moves in that regard. I want to make sure that council continues to move towards positive influence.”
The Westbank Town Centre Revitalization Plan is another item that de Jong is excited to begin implementing.
“I think that’s critical to helping us develop a stronger identity and moving the economy forward.”
Mayor Doug Findlater said that de Jong will be a solid addition to the current council. “I think Rick will fit in great. Rick’s been in leadership positions and he’s been around local government, so he’ll stand in good stead,” said Findlater.