By Steve Hubrecht
[email protected]

The Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) held its annual board chair and vice-chair elections last week, and for the first time in a long time, multiple candidates were running for the top position.

The competition for longtime incumbent RDEK chair Rob Gay came from a Columbia Valley candidate: RDEK Area F director, Susan Clovechok.

Clovechok and Gay were both nominated for the board chair position during the RDEK board of directors Friday, Nov. 5 meeting. The board of directors then voted 10 to five to re-elect Gay. Following that vote, Clovechok was then nominated for the vice-chair position, and with no other candidates running for that role, she was elected as vice-chair by acclamation.

Gay is the longest-serving board chair in RDEK history, having been in the position for the past ten years. Clovechok had already served as vice-chair last year, and she continues a years-long streak of having a Columbia Valley regional district director as vice-chair: prior to Clovechok, Radium Hot Springs mayor, Clara Reinhardt, was vice-chair, and before that, former RDEK Area F director, Wendy Booth was vice-chair.

Clovechok told the Pioneer her inspiration to run came partly from conversations she’d had with Gay earlier this year, in which Gay had said he wasn’t sure if he would continue to run for election as an RDEK rural area director (and consequently as RDEK board chair) beyond 2022 (the next municipal election).

“I felt we needed good succession planning, so I stepped up to run for chair this year,” said Clovechok. “My idea was that, if Rob does not run in 2022, it would be good for me to get some experience running for chair this year. There is the possibility that we could have quite a bit of changeover at the RDEK board level in 2022, and if that is the case, the more experience remaining board members have, the less disruptive the transition will be. It’s a big learning curve (joining the RDEK board). There are a lot of moving parts.”

Clovechok said that now that Gay is leaning toward running again in 2022, “it’s mission accomplished. We’ll have two strong options for chair again in 2022, and there will be leadership continuity at the board…I’m really pleased. With Rob as chair and myself as vice-chair again, I feel we have a strong team, and we’ll build on that.”

Clovechok’s run against Gay — which was the first time in more than a half-decade there has been an actual electoral competition for the board chair position – initially came as a surprise, Gay told the Pioneer, but he added he’s glad Clovechok ran, as it gave him a chance to reflect and to talk with other board directors about the job he’s been doing.

“That part of it was really positive. It’s good not to get stuck in your ways…This allowed me to take a look in the mirror. There were definitely no hard feelings or anything like that at all,” said Gay. 

Gay added that the upcoming year or two will be an important time for the RDEK and a busy board. “There’s so much development going on,” said Gay, adding the board will need to consider not only how to deal with the development itself, but how best to have the RDEK keep up its level of service, given such development. Other big items for the RDEK to tackle include discussions about its facilities, which Gay pointed out are near capacity, and how to manage the increase in recreational trails the RDEK looks after.