By Steve Hubrecht

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Interest in participating in Invermere politics has gone from barely a trickle to keep the water flowing through the tap, to a streaming cascade threatening to burst the pipes. 

The difference a few months makes couldn’t be more stark. Back in October, during the fall’s municipal election, only five candidates ran in Invermere for the five positions available (one mayor seat and four councillor seats). As a result all were acclaimed without an election. Then before the first meeting of the new Invermere council was held, one councillor-elect had to step down for personal reasons. This prompted a by-election, which began this past weekend and which will run until March 4. The by-election has attracted five candidates.

You read that correctly: In October five candidates came forward for five positions. Now five candidates are vying for just one spot.

Invermere Al Miller was delighted at the flood of candidates. “I’m not sure where they were during the regular election, and it’s unfortunate they didn’t put their names forward then. But I am very glad they have put their names forward now. We have five great individuals. This gives our community a choice, and that’s democracy at its best. I’m super pleased.”

The five candidates are Grey Bradatsch, David Goldsmith, Grant Kelly, Stephanie Stevens, and Juanita Violini.

Stevens is already familiar to valley voters, as she participated in October’s municipal election as a candidate for Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) Area G, where she was living at the time. She’s since moved to Invermere and is switching gears and now running for Invermere council.

The move to Invermere was unexpected, explained Stevens. “Things changed suddenly and when (the Invermere councillor spot) opened up, I thought maybe it’s a sign,” she said. “I have wanted to be involved with local government for a while now, so I thought I’d throw my hat in the ring.”

Stevens first came to the Columbia Valley when she was 12 years old (her dad moved here for a Parks Canada job) and has lived here ever since. She has raised three sons here and now has three grandchildren. Local newspaper readers with long memories will recall that Stevens was a reporter for the former Invermere Valley Echo, and that she ran the Summit Youth Centre (now called the Summit YC Hub) in Invermere for many years. Stevens brings past local government experience to her campaign — she served for two decades with the RDEK Area G advisory planning commission, and was former RDEK Area G director Gerry Wilkie’s alternate at the RDEK board for more than a decade.

Goldsmith is known to a good many valley residents for his extensive collection of Hawaiian shirts (he gave up the collection a few years ago), and as the organizer of a film about local mountain guiding legend, Leo Grillmair. 

“I now have the time (to be a councillor), I want to give back to the community, and I have a lot of experience at this kind of thing,” Goldsmith told the Pioneer. Part of the reason Goldsmith didn’t run as a councillor in the past, and in the fall election, is that he and his partner Marilyn have often taken longer vacations. This is something they’ve recently decided to scale back, giving Goldsmith the time he feels the job of councillor requires.

Goldsmith had a decades-long career with the Saskatchewan provincial government and the federal government in Ottawa. Following that career, he moved to the Columbia Valley in 2002, but continued his public service, first with the B.C.-wide Interior Health board of directors (2007 to 2014), then with the province’s First Nations Health Authority board of directors (2017 to 2021), where he helped recruit more First Nations board members. He also held an advisory committee position with the B.C. College of Physicians and Surgeons and is on the board of directors for the local Hospice Society of the Columbia Valley. 

Goldsmith said his government career has given him the ability to work with people of all stripes (he worked for Liberal, Conservative and NDP governments). “I like to be a decision maker… and I’m very careful with spending taxpayers’ money,” said Goldsmith. 

Bradatsch has been living in the Columbia Valley for 20 years. Many locals recognize him as co-owner of the Artym Gallery. Through the gallery and its many years of the Map Book cover projects, Bradatsch has helped fundraise for a variety of community initiatives in Invermere and throughout the valley.

“The opportunity to run for council is perfect for me right now. I’m able to step back from work and I want to give back to the community,” Bradatsch told the Pioneer.

Bradatsch brings experience as a downtown business owner to his councillor campaign. Aside from his work and his interest in local politics, Bradatsch is an outdoor enthusiast, and loves mountain biking and skiing.

Kelly has lived in the Columbia Valley along with his partner Sherri, for more than two decades. The couple have a son. He is familiar to Invermere residents as the owner of the former Grants Foods for 14 years, and of Columbia Valley Meat and Sausage (as operator of the abattoir), for four years. He is also a member of the Kinsmen Club, and has been a director with the Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce, a volunteer with the Columbia Valley Rockies, a member the organizing committee of the annual Labour Day hockey tournament, the president of the Columbia Valley Old-Timers Hockey Association, and has been a coach, referee and board member of the Windermere Valley Minor Hockey Association.

“I’ve been contemplating it (running for council) for quite a few years. But I didn’t feel I had the time to dedicate to it,” Kelly told the Pioneer. “Now I’m semi-retired and I have the time to put into it. There’s a lot more to it than just coming to council meetings. There’s a lot of research and talking to citizens that needs to be done.”

Violini is known in the Columbia Valley as an author, a murder mystery script writer and a visual artist. She grew up in Banff, but has been living in the valley for 17 years. Her career with Parks Canada has seen her working in visitor services with the Lake Louise Yoho Kootenay field unit, and in the national office in data management, human resources and finance.

“Invermere is both a hometown and a resort town. We need to be a strong hometown so we can support being a resort town. Right now our hometown is going through a change. We can influence that change or be at the effect of it. Working together, we can influence the change in a direction that benefits the whole community,” said Violini.

She added that it is also important to her to help citizens “get answers to their questions so they know where they stand on any topic and what their next steps can be”.

Stay tuned for more by-election coverage in future editions of the Pioneer