It’s been an interesting two years so far for Regional District of Mount Waddington (RDMW) chair Andrew Hory, who is also the director for Area C in Coal Harbour.
Hory agreed to an interview with the North Island Gazette to discuss the first half of the term and what will be coming up for the RDMW in the future.
Looking back, how was 2020 overall?
The first half of this term has come with many challenges – the two most obvious are a very long strike that was a difficult time for the entire region and then when that was finally over we all looked forward to a better 2020…
2020 stands out as a year of stress and challenge but I feel like the RDMW has done well in that time to continue its services uninterrupted and accessible – we have managed to continue and even thrive in many ways as we have adapted and improved operations but it is certainly true staff and directors are feeling the effects of the lockdown and a return to more normal operations will provide relief and some opportunities to recover.
What are some things you’re proud of that the RDMW has accomplished so far?
I am proud of a lot of the work the RDMW has done, improving its infrastructure often by thinking outside the obvious and running projects through existing management and service functions instead of farming them out to consultants, especially in ways that reduce green house gases contributing to climate change.
Coal Harbour fire hall for example joins the list of RDMW fire departments with a high efficiency heat pump instead of a propane furnace. There are a lot of examples like that and cumulatively they do two important things – they reduce cost of the service(s) and they reduce the carbon footprint of the RDMW to mitigate climate change and extreme weather that we are all seeing.
Looking forward, what does the RDMW have planned for the second half of the term?
Like every organization the RDMW has challenges and a great part of the effort in the second half of term will be related to improving the work spaces of the RDMW.
The RDMW Board applied for a grant to build a larger conference room – this is greatly needed to provide access for those with mobility issues and create a space more suited to respectful meetings between the RDMW and other levels of government, including the vital work of Reconciliation and welcoming First Nations to the table. If this grant is successful there will be a lot of disruption for staff and elected officials in the second half of this term but the result at the end of it will be very positive.
Some key management staff will be retiring before the end of term so filling those positions will be another major focus of the personnel committee and the board as a whole. Other improvements will be implementation of new software for some financial elements. A lot of this has been done with great effort by staff, and not without stress, but there are still a few projects ahead that should bring the rest of operations up in efficiency and transparency that is the goal.
What does being a North Island politician mean to you personally?
Ultimately as a politician this type of work is what gives satisfaction – not only making sure the day to day function of local government goes on and that vital systems do not falter – but making things better, improving how things work both in the physical spaces and the policy level.
The role of an elected official is not to do the hands on part but to have a vision and work with staff to create a direction and plan. On a personal level that is what has kept me committed to representing my community and the North Island – any organization will have challenges of one kind or another from time to time but improving the basic structure means meeting those challenges is easier.
As a director and for the last while as the chair that is what I have always tried to focus on, some things are routine and it would be easy to just get into a rhythm and tick over the meetings but I am glad to say I have not seen that happen – directors show up and the record of improvement I have seen personally over the last 10 years is substantial.
How tough has it been for the Mount Waddington region as a whole going through an eight-month logging strike and then getting hit by COVID-19 right after?
The North Island regional trends of declining population and employment and increasing service challenges that are highlighted but not created by the pandemic, are definitely a challenge going forward. However I am feeling quite optimistic at the moment, post pandemic is going to mean a lot of things in a lot of places but I see signs that the North Island will resurge and actually buck the trend of the last 20 years.
I look forward working toward that at the local government level and as a resident, I grew up here and am privileged to be able to pass that on to my children.