West Kelowna’s new mayor offers insight into what’s to come

New mayor, new council and a new direction

Marissa Tiel

It’s going to be an early retirement for financial planner Gord Milsom after all. Well, sort of.

Milsom will be West Kelowna’s new mayor after receiving nearly 80 per cent of the vote, according to preliminary results.

“I feel terrific. I’m really excited to be the new mayor of West Kelowna,” Milsom told Kelowna Capital News at the Shannon Lake Golf Course Saturday night, where hundreds of supporters gathered to await election results.

“I think we’ve got a great team on council, so I’m happy for the community and we’re going to do good things over the next four years.”

READ MORE: West Kelowna’s new mayor is Gord Milsom, major council shake-up

Milsom, who served as a West Kelowna councillor from 2007-2014, received 6,050 votes, while Mary Mandarino received 1,257.

Milsom campaigned on improving water quality, building safer roads, improving sidewalks and bike paths, and reducing crime.

He had been planning to retire from the financial planning business next year, but will be handing the reins over to his son a year early.

“I’ll be able to focus full-time on the mayor’s job,” he said.

First up for Milsom will be meeting with West Kelowna city staff to get briefed on the current state of affairs.

With a strong foundation as a city for over 10 years, Milsom is looking forward to working with the new council moving forward with its mix of new and old blood.

“I think it’s a good blend,” he said. “Obviously I think a lot of people in the community wanted change in the direction we were heading.”

West Kelowna voters shook up the council, voting for three fresh faces and three familiar ones: former mayor Doug Findlater and councillors Carol Zanon and Rick de Jong.

Former councillor Rosalind Neis, who served as West Kelowna’s first mayor in 2007, Bryden Winsby and Rusty Ensign will not be returning to council.

Stephen Johnston, who ran for mayor in 2014 will have a seat on council after receiving 4,277 votes. He will be joined by Jayson Zilkie (3,373 votes), incumbent de Jong (3,329 votes), Findlater (2,955 votes), incumbent Carol Zanon (2,794 votes), and Jason Friesen (2,740 votes).

Issues that dominated the election for West Kelowna residents included safe drinking water, homelessness, congestion on Highway 97, upgrading public infrastructure, reducing crime, and a new city hall.

Council newcomer Friesen said that he’d heard residents were ready for something different from council while he was out canvassing.

“Many people said it was time for change,” he said. “And the voters came out and said that. They’re looking for some new and fresh perspectives.”

A priority for Friesen is to review the city’s Official Community Plan (OCP) and to streamline the application process for business investors.

“We had a reputation in the development and business world of being one of the most difficult areas to work with,” he said. “We need to appear like we’re open for business.”

Zilkie, another council newcomer would also like to change the perception of the city into being “open for business.”

He said he was honoured to receive 3,373 votes.

“I don’t know everybody that voted for me, and that is such an honour,” he said.

“I’m really honoured to beat out all the incumbents…. that speaks volumes to what our city wants to see.”

With a background in leadership and business, Zilkie is hoping to change the culture of the city.

And that starts at the top, with Milsom.

“The new mayor is a solid person and a really good leader,” he said.

Voter turnout this years was 29.14 per cent, down 2.7 per cent from 2014.

With the declaration of results set for Wednesday and the new council scheduled to take over Nov. 6, Zilkie is ready to get to work.

“I’m a Westside guy through and through,” he said. “Now I really want to try and make a difference.”


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