Speaking to the Chamber of Commerce Thursday Mayor Kerry Cook said politics in Williams Lake isn’t always easy.
“We haven’t had a second term mayor in Williams Lake for about 20 years so we’re hoping that this term’s going to be building on some momentum,” Cook said, also acknowledging former mayor Walt Cobb, who ran against her for the mayor’s seat in the November election.
“We met recently a couple of weeks ago and I really want to take my hat off to Walt. A really good example of his leadership is that we met together and we were discussing what he had heard through the campaign and how we can work together.”
At the end of their conversation the two were committed to work together, Cook added.
Alluding to the proposed provincial budget, Cook suggested it is clear the province is in a time when change is really important and there is not the money to go around.
“When we met with ministers in September, meeting after meeting, we heard things have changed and we need to think differently.”
The city, she added, is in a very strong position to walk through the next phase of “huge” fiscal accountability and there are some things that the city can control.
“I don’t know if anyone’s been following our budget process, but we’re changing our process. We’re putting more emphasis on long-term financial accountability and we’re doing things differently. We’re saving and planning for the future so we’re not as dependent on borrowing money because it’s just not sustainable.”
The process has been opened up to the public, in hopes to be more transparent, she added.
Reductions in operating costs have totalled $300,000 so far and staff has been directed to reduce capital spending by another $500,000.
“Change does not have to be a bad thing. We are often hesitant when we hear the word change,” Cook said.
In the last year, the city has seen some positive economic signs including $50 million in new economic activity, and vacancy and unemployment rates decreasing.
Gold prices are high and locally Gibraltar Mine is completing a $300 million expansion that Cook said will create 200 permanent full-time jobs after the construction phase is completed.
“A few months ago I don’t know if that would have been possible. It takes a lot of work and a lot of patience to get to that point. And I think that signing between a mining company and a local First Nation is exciting and it’s precedent setting,” she said, adding she’s looking forward to seeing more of those types of agreements in the future.
Driving around Williams Lake Cook has seen local businesses reinvesting, but also said she doesn’t want to take away from challenges that exist.
“I was with Jeanette Tuerlings (Boitanio Mall manager) in the mall walking around and we had a meeting with the owner of the mall last week. We see a lot of vacancies. There are some tough things going on. We see a lot of vacancies. We didn’t get into that situation overnight and we’re not going to get out of it overnight.”
Pointing to the business expansion strategy, she said it’s a priority and that by working together and creating partnerships, with the chamber, First Nations, and Thompson Rivers University in Williams Lake things can change.
“The city can’t do it alone,” Cook said.