Mayor Gerry Taft used his final opportunity to advocate for votes at the last Invermere all-candidates forum to encourage residents to vote for more diversity on council.
“I think it’s great that you have all this selection before you,” he said about the panel of eight council candidates and two school-board candidates gathered in the theatre of the David Thomspon Secondary School on Monday, October 15th.
He said he would “like to encourage those who are voting to also consider including a female or two on council and helping get some young people on council as well. I think it is important.”
While he was effectively advocating against himself as he competes for one of four councillor slots, Mr. Taft was first elected at 20, bringing his youth to a council that had been predominately comprised of middle-aged white men.
The current council is made up solely of white men with Mr. Taft, now aged 36, as the youngest member.
Historically there have been a series of other all-male councils as well as periods where one woman was on council.
In the District office’s corporate memory, there has only been a councillor with a visible physical disability in office once.
Kayja Becker, one of the younger candidates in the upcoming election, said she would like to see a “more balanced government” in terms of age, gender and culture.
Ute Juras joked about still being a young woman but added that she certainly supports diversity on council.
Greg Anderson said that as the only retiree, he would also offer a unique perspective on council and represent an important demographic.
Shawn Ridsdale, 39, spoke before Mr. Taft, so he didn’t have the opportunity to respond to the other candidates’ comments about diversity during the forum.
In an interview afterwards, Mr. Ridsdale said that “town council should be a diverse group of people” even if that means he receives fewer votes.
Each of the candidates either supported voting for a diverse council that would be a more accurate reflection of the community it represents or opted to address other topics in their closing remarks.