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Denise O’Connor announced as mayor-elect for Village of Lytton

Lightfoot, McCann, Michell, and Thoss elected as councillors
Lytton mayor-elect Denise O’Connor. (Photo credit: Submitted)

Denise O’Connor is the new mayor of Lytton, and the village has two new and two returning councillors, following preliminary results from the 2022 municipal election.

With incumbent mayor Jan Polderman not running for re-election, three candidates — Edith Loring-Kuhanga, Willie Nelson, and Denise O’Connor, none of whom had previous council experience — ran to fill the vacant spot. When the polls closed on Saturday, Oct. 15, O’Connor was declared the winner, with 87 votes. Loring-Kuhanga and Nelson had 34 votes and eight votes respectively.

Five people were vying for four seats as a councillor: former mayor Jessoa Lightfoot, Nonie McCann, Melissa Michell (the only incumbent), Ken Pite, and Jennifer Thoss. The preliminary results, with the number of votes for each candidate, are:

Nonie McCann (99)

Melissa Michell (96)

Jessoa Lightfoot (95)

Jennifer Thoss (71)

Ken Pite (69)

The preliminary numbers show that a total of 129 votes were cast for mayor out of a total of 189 eligible voters. In 2018 there was no need for an election in Lytton, as only one person (Polderman) ran for mayor and only four people ran as councillors, meaning they were all elected by acclamation.

In 2014 the mayor (Jessoa Lightfoot) was also elected by acclamation. In that election, a total of 321 votes were split among seven councillor candidates; 430 votes were split among five candidates in 2022.

Voting was complicated this year because most Lytton residents are still scattered following the 2021 fire. An advance voting day was held at Kumsheen ShchEma-meet School in Lytton, where general voting took place on Oct. 15. Qualified electors were also able to send in votes by mail.

O’Connor is a lifelong Lytton resident who raised her family in the town and was a teacher and school principal there until her retirement four years ago. She lost her home in the 2021 fire, and in November 2021 was asked by the Lytton recovery team to take on the role of lead-volunteer managing the Resiliency Centre.

“The residents need to be communicated and consulted with,” O’Connor said to the Journal. “We need representation that wants to see the community rebuilt, and thrive in the long-term.” She added that in her view, the work of mayor and council would be to “serve our constituents, communicate and consult with them, demand a sense of urgency, and advocate and lobby for services to be returned.”

Loring-Kuhanga has lived in Lytton for five years and is the Administrator for the Stein Valley Nlakapamux School. She has previously spent 14 years as an elected official: four years as a Band Councillor and 10 years as a school trustee.

She ran on a platform that included holding a face-to-face Town Hall meeting with Lytton residents to give a full account of what has and has not happened since the June 30, 2021 fire that destroyed 90 per cent of the village. She also cited the lack of communication and transparency since the fire, and no accountability regarding the funds that have been received.

Nelson, a raft guide, wildfire firefighter, and industrial hemp farmer, has been politically active for many years and ran in the 2017 B.C. provincial election. He told the Journal that the delayed clean-up and rebuild are the largest issues facing Lytton, and that, if elected, he would build a temporary village hall in fall 2022.

This term will be the first as an elected official for councillors-elect McCann and Thoss. Councillor-elect Melissa Michell was first elected to Lytton council during the by-election in April 2022, while councillor-elect Jessoa Lightfoot was first elected as a Lytton councillor in 2005. She defeated two other candidates to win the mayor’s chair in 2008, and was acclaimed as mayor in 2011 and 2014. She did not run in the 2018 election.

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