Barbara Roden became the first female mayor in Ashcroft’s long and stellar history following a neck-to-neck race with Sandy Agatiello during the municipal election on Oct. 20.
The ballots, which were counted in lots of 50, showed it was going to be a tight race all the way to the end.
Such was the case in the preliminary advanced poll numbers, where Roden carried a slight lead over the political scene newcomer Agatiello.
They were tied several times during the ballot count. In the end, however, Roden got the nod with 319 votes compared to Agatiello’s 283.
The other mayoral hopeful, Alf Trill, who ran on a promise to reinstate the seniors’ utilities discount, finished a distant third with 138 votes.
Roden agrees it was a very tight race. “It tells me there’s a lot of listening I have to do with the people of Ashcroft.
“It was a good race, a good campaign with lots of respect, which is always nice to see because politics isn’t always like that.”
The mayor-elect says she wasn’t surprised with the way the numbers played out. “With the three candidates splitting the vote, it was about what I expected.”
Roden notes she was impressed by the voter turnout, at about 55 per cent in Ashcroft.
CivicInfo BC had Ashcroft pegged at 1,328 eligible voters, and 748 of them marked their ballots.
It was interesting that the advance polls attracted 417 voters, compared to 331 on Oct. 20.
Roden has a brand new council, with none of the councillor-elects having any municipal government experience.
“I think it’s good for Ashcroft. I think there’s going to be some continuity with my experience as a councillor for the past four years carrying over into the mayor’s chair.”
Noting that she is looking forward to working with the new council members, Roden says she hopes that she can provide guidance, leadership and mentorship as they find their way into their new roles.
“From what I’ve heard of them and seen of their platforms, they all have some very good and interesting ideas for Ashcroft. I think it’s going to be a very good four years for the Village.”
The mayor-elect says it’s both crucial and fortunate there is a very good senior staff working in the Village office.
“Politicians come and go. Staff provides the continuity and knowledge of what’s been done, what’s being done and what the former council has identified as priorities.
“We’re very fortunate that we have senior staff who are extremely knowedgeable and helpful, and that’s going to be a huge benefit to the new council.”
Roden says she has heard and identified herself the top three priorities as being housing, recycling, and jobs.
Housing: Rental housing is huge: houses to purchase, and having appropriate housing for different age groups and people with different needs, she explains.
Recycling: That is largely out of the hands of council because it’s a Thompson-Nicola Regional District decision, Roden says.
“But I think we have to work with the TNRD to see if there’s something that can be done in the short term until they build us a new eco-depot/transfer station.”
Jobs: “We really need to work closely with the Ashcroft Terminal. With the build-out they’re doing over the next three years, they’re talking about 250 jobs.
“They have identified as a priority finding employees within the region. We have to work closely with them to find out what they’re doing and what they need. The jobs are great, but Ashcroft really needs to have the housing for the employees, so they’re not commuting from other communities.”
The mayor-elect says the current council hopes to be able to give third reading and final adoption to its new Official Community Plan and Zoning Bylaw at its Oct. 22 meeting.
“We’ve been overhauling them over the past two years with a lot of community input, so having an up-to-date OCP and zoning bylaw is important.”
It is a crucial tool because council can go to developers and tell them this is what the people of Ashcroft want the town to look like and have identified a need for housing, Roden explains.
“We can cut a lot of the red tape and developers will know that we’re serious about this,” she adds.
“I want to give a huge thank you to the people of Ashcroft for trusting me and giving me this great honour. Ashcroft is a great community … and I want to take it up to the next level.”
Editor’s note: Barbara Roden is also the editor of the Ashcroft Cache Creek Journal