Todd McKenzie knows he has “big shoes to fill” in serving as the next Oyama ward representative on Lake Country council.
McKenzie will join Lake Country council replacing the late Owen Dickie as Oyama’s council rep.
“Owen obviously liked his community and was very available all the time for people to bend his ear, both good and bad. We were neighbours and lived on the same street so we used to walk our dogs together. He was always looking for ways to improve his community,” McKenzie said.
Dickie passed away earlier this year, and the by-election nomination deadline to determine his replacement on council saw McKenzie as the lone nominee to step forward.
A similar by-election required for Carr’s Landing saw three people nominated to run for the ward seat vacated by Matt Vader, who stepped aside to take on an administrative position with the district.
McKenzie, 49, said he was prepared for an election campaign, “looking forward to the challenge,” only to have the elected post drop in his lap uncontested.
“I have mixed feelings about that as I was excited for the opportunity to run for the seat on council, then you start to wonder a little why nobody else wanted the job.”
But McKenzie said his feelings about being handed the job have been placated by others on council and in the community reaching out to congratulate and welcome him to council.
One of those callers was Dickie’s wife, who offered her support to him, to do anything she could to help him with the transition into civic politics.
“I definitely feel welcomed by a lot of people that will to help and support me and that’s been nice to hear,” McKenzie said.
Besides talking with Dickie on the canine walking trail, McKenzie says Coun. Blair Ireland, who he coached minor league soccer with, has helped give him an assessment of what to expect, and he’s had opportunity to talk with Mayor James Baker about particular issues in the past.
As a rec hockey goaltender, McKenzie used the hockey analogy of joining a new team and feeling more comfortable when you already know some of the players.
McKenzie moved to Oyama a decade ago with his wife Tena, who works at UBC Okanagan, where they have chosen to raise their two kids.
McKenzie was born in Toronto but essentially grew up in Armstrong, then lived in Clearwater, before moving back to the Okanagan Valley at age 19.
He says living in Oyama feels like “we are always on vacation,” saying the rural setting lends to an enjoyable rural lifestyle while not being too far away from larger city amenities.
He works in industrial equipment sales, and enjoys spending time fishing, biking, boating and playing hockey.
“They always say the worst day of fishing is better than our best day at work,” he laughed.
“I am grateful to live in such a great place that is full of opportunities.”
Protecting that lifestyle against the pressures of urbanization is one issue that McKenzie says he expects to face in his initial 16-month term in office before the next municipal election.
“There is a lot of construction going on in Oyama now and we see how Winfield is growing at a fast rate,” he said. “You can’t make everyone happy but I do want to see that all this development is handled the best it can be from our community’s perspective.
“I have a month here to work on getting up to speed as quick as I can before getting sworn in on July 4 on what council is dealing with, and go from there.”