Pictured, left to right: Columbia-Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald, Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett, Area F Director Wendy Booth, Invermere Mayor Gerry Taft.

The provinces new premier, Christy Clark, may have her work cut out for her if she wants to have an impact in this area, according to local political leaders.

Concerns highlighted by the valley and regions politicians include a potential lack of understanding of rural issues, Ms. Clarks past record as Minister of Education and her reputation as a Vancouver-centric politician. But there is also a lot of hope that Ms. Clarks focus on families and her pledge to improve communications between the Lower Mainland and rural regions could do a lot of good in this area.

What she has shown in a short period of time is a willingness to listen and learn, said Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett. That is more than half the battle.

But Norm Macdonald, MLA for the neighbouring riding of Columbia-Revelstoke said that Ms. Clarks past record cannot be swept under the rug.

From 2001 to 2005 Ms. Clark oversaw the closure of 113 schools, including Radium, Parson, Golden and Canal Flats.

The record Ms. Clark had as Minister of Education and Childrens Development does not make a good record for the valley, said Mr. Macdonald. Shes living in Vancouver and its unlikely she fully understands the rural issues.

Other local politicians have hope that not only will she understand the provinces issues outside of the Vancouver area, but will also work to improve relations between the rural regions and the Lower Mainland.

I believe the provincial government needs to improve their communication to the rest of the province, which can always be a huge challenge, said RDEK Area F Director Wendy Booth. Hopefully Ms. Clark will make that a priority.

Ms. Clark ran her campaign based on an agenda for change, focusing on promoting the way business is done in Victoria. She also emphasized putting families at the centre of decision-making for the government.

If shes serious about changing how the legislature works, it could be quite good, Mr. MacDonald added. Over the past year and a half the government has not functioned and she needs to pull things back together.

Gerry Taft, the District of Invermere Mayor, hopes Ms. Clark will review some policies introduced in the past two years, specifically the Harmonized Sales Tax and the changes to the drinking and driving regulations, as well as working to improve communication beyond the Lower Mainland.

Theres a stereotype that she is very Vancouver focused, Mr. Taft said. Its a challenge, but hopefully she reaches out to the rest of the province.

Ms. Clark won the Liberal leadership race on February 26th and became B.C.s premier-designate.