Wendy Coomber has been confirmed as a councillor for the Village of Cache Creek, following a by-election held on June 25 to fill the seat left vacant on council following the death of Herb Hofer in April.
A total of 219 votes were cast; 130 during advance voting, and 89 on June 25. The final vote tally was 101 for Coomber, 86 for Peter Gross, and 32 for Gareth Smart. There are approximately 851 eligible voters in Cache Creek, and 441 votes were cast in the 2014 election.
Coomber, a long-time Cache Creek resident who recently retired after 14 years as editor of The Journal, said it has always been in the back of her mind to run for council, but that when she retired in February she thought there would be no opportunity until the next election in 2018. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do.”
Although she has no previous experience as an elected official, she notes that her experience covering council as a journalist will probably stand her in good stead. “There’s a lot of process to the job, a lot of legislation involved: ‘You can do this, you can’t do that.’ I probably have a better idea of that than many people who’ve never been to a council meeting.” She adds with a laugh, “I’ll probably make a few mistakes, but hope they won’t be big ones.”
Cache Creek mayor John Ranta says that “It was a great result for Wendy Coomber, but the other candidates will be disappointed.” He says that Gross has shared a list of items with him that the candidate heard while campaigning, and he has urged Smart to do the same. “I’m sure Wendy will share what she heard when she’s on council.”
He notes that Coomber has been “very connected in the community through the Cache Creek Beautification Society, and she covered council for many years.” He adds that her election brings “gender balance to council. There’s a value in gender balance. I’m looking forward to working with her.”
Coomber says that the announced closure of the Cache Creek landfill, and the fact that the extension has not yet been approved, is the biggest challenge to the village that she sees at the moment. “I see a downtown sector with a lot of vacant spots and fields. I’d like to get them filled in with businesses, including some funky little businesses to attract people; more than just restaurants and hotels.
“I’d like to get the downtown up and strong and then move outward and get people to move here, by looking at affordable housing and transportation.”
Coomber says she was not surprised by the number of people who turned out to vote. “I’m not convinced it’s a low number. It’s summer, people are away, grad is just over. The only issue right now is the landfill.”
Ranta agrees that the numbers don’t necessarily reflect a lack of interest on the part of voters. “It doesn’t feel to me like it’s a contentious time in the village of Cache Creek right now.”
He concedes that the lack of an all-candidates forum may have led to a lower voter turnout. “An all-candidates forum, and the responses candidates make, can result in some people changing their vote. And it gets people talking and enhances the election process.”
Ranta says he would like to see Coomber sworn in as a councillor “sooner rather than later, so we can get down to business at the next council meeting [on July 18].” He adds, however, that from his point of view it’s been business as usual on council over the last nine weeks.
For her part, Coomber is looking forward to making a difference in the town. “I really want to concentrate on bringing some life—some flavour, some character—to town.
“I want to work on the business sector and get something going in Cache Creek that will make up for the loss of the landfill. I heard lots of great ideas from people while I was out campaigning.
“It’s going to be good.”