For the first time in 28 years, Cache Creek has a new mayor.
John Ranta, who was first elected mayor in 1990, was defeated by newcomer Santo Talarico. With the preliminary results in from the election on October 20, Talarico had 230 votes, Ranta had 204, and the third mayoral candidate, Sean Murdock, had 49.
Ranta has said he will not be asking for a recount.
Incumbent councillors Wendy Coomber (320 votes) and Lisa Dafoe (287 votes) were both returned. They will be joined on council by newcomer Susan Peters (384 votes) and Annette Pittman (259 votes). Pittman previously served on Cache Creek council. Incumbent councillors Wyatt McMurray — who had been on council for 31 years — and David Dubois were not returned.
Slightly more than 60 per cent of eligible voters in Cache Creek cast a ballot, with almost half of them taking advantage of the Village’s advance voting opportunities. The turnout was one of the highest, percentage-wise, in the province.
When asked why he ran, Talarico says “I’m a believer that if you have an opinion on how things should be done, or have a concern with an issue, you should provide a solution, or step in and try to do it.
“I had concerns about many issues, and I’d done talking. I had to step in and do something.”
He notes that the experience of other members of council will be a valuable resource, particularly in light of the lack of senior staff in the Village office (Cache Creek has been without a permanent Chief Administrative Officer and Chief Financial Officer since July).
“The lack of senior staff is a huge issue; not only attracting them, but retaining them. And it has a compounding effect. There are things we want to move along quickly. We need to take steps to make sure the new CAO and CFO are people who will fit well with our community and goals.”
Talarico says he’s been hearing for years about the need for more collaboration between local communities. “We can’t go it alone anymore. We have to have an open dialogue with all communities in the area. There’s no question about that in my mind.”
He says that change was the number one thing he heard about during the campaign. “People want to see Cache Creek take a different direction.”
Dealing with the economic situation facing small rural communities is another priority. “We need to identify what the factors are contributing to loss of jobs, businesses, residents, and we need to identify what we have to offer. Part of my goal is to identify the economic stressors in our community, and have a clear game plan in place to change that, have the tide flow the other way.”
Talarico acknowledges Ranta and McMurray’s many years of public service in Cache Creek. “Thanks to them for serving the community. And thanks to the electorate of Cache Creek for their interest, and coming out in such big numbers to vote. They’ve given the people they’ve elected a mandate to do what’s necessary to improve the community over the next four years.”
Dafoe, who will be entering her third term, says that council needs to try to repair the things that need repairing, and move the community forward. She notes that recycling was a big issue with many voters (“We face a challenge there”), as was transit and the increase in criminal activity. She also says that people want to see the downtown core cleaned up.
Dafoe says that she will miss Ranta’s knowledge, but that she is looking forward to working with Talarico as mayor. “And I’m looking forward to moving forward.”
Coomber, who was first elected in a 2016 by-election, says that transit, adult activities, seniors’ housing, and concern about future flooding came up during the campaign. “I was able to tell people that the bus service was back on the table, thanks to Cllr. David Dubois, and that council recently passed a motion to enter into talks with the local BC Transit committee. It’s a shame that Cllr. Dubois will not be able to see this project through to completion.”
She notes that seniors’ housing will be studied in an upcoming Housing Needs Assessment, that there is always room for more activities, and that dealing with flooding is an ongoing discussion at the council table.
Coomber also wants to see more effort put into marketing the town. “We need developers to build on the empty properties downtown, and we need businesses to come here and move into them. That won’t happen until we let them know we’re here. We also need to get the word out that Cache Creek is not the disaster capital of B.C.
“I’m hearing from businesses that this summer was financially worse than last year; tourist numbers were way down. I think we had about the same amount of traffic that we usually do, but they weren’t stopping.
“It’s a brand new council, a clean slate, and a universe of possibilities. It’s going to be awesome!”
Pittman says that while she’s kept up-to-date about what’s gone on in the community, she expects to have some catching up to do after several years off council.
She, too, notes the challenges around recycling, and says that she heard from a lot of people who wanted Cache Creek to join the transit system operated by Ashcroft and Clinton. “Seniors want to get to and from Ashcroft and Kamloops.” She, too, is looking forward to working with Talarico.
“That’s one of the main reasons I threw my hat into the ring again: the new faces, and the opportunity to do more.”
Peters says that she had been thinking of running for office for a couple of terms, but that the timing was right this year, as she is retiring at the end of November. She says that housing—especially the lack of seniors’ and rental housing—was an issue she heard a lot about during the campaign.
“We need to build our economy back up. And we need to work regionally a lot more than we have in the past. We’re better together.”
Peters looks forward to working with the new mayor. “I know he’s a hard worker. I think with this mayor and council we have a good foundation.”