By MEL ROTHENBURGER
Director, Electoral Area P
One of the first jobs of a new regional district board is to pick a new chair. Who that person will be is always the subject of a lot of speculation in the media and at the coffee shops.
Last Thursday night (Dec. 11, 2014), the new Thompson-Nicola Regional District board was sworn into office by Mr. Justice Dev Dley at a ceremony in the Sandman Signature Hotel. Directors immediately chose Cache Creek Mayor John Ranta as chair for a one-year term.
Ranta defeated Kamloops City Coun. Ken Christian, who lost out for the position a year ago to Barriere Mayor Bill Humphreys. Some of the reporting of the election seemed to suggest it amounted to a City-rural split on the board, and there’s often also a perception that the outcome is a done deal before the directors ever sit down to vote.
I can’t comment knowledgeably on the first point, not having been on the board for quite a few years, but I’m confident that when it comes to the regional interest, directors will work and vote based on what’s best for the region as a whole rather than on parochial views.
As for the mysteries of how the election of chair comes about, it’s really no mystery at all. If the outcome was a done deal, nobody would challenge the front-runner.
Directors interested in becoming chair lobby other directors and directors-elect to get a feel for their chances. They send out email blasts, make phone calls, and try to gather momentum by having other directors lobby on their behalf.
Some directors will tell a would-be chair quite candidly whether they intend to vote for him or her, while others prefer to keep their support to themselves. A chair candidate may get a pretty solid idea about level of support but it’s never a certainty.
One reason is the large number of directors. The election for school board chair, with only nine members, is almost always decided by “acclamation” because trustees know before the inaugural meeting who has support and who doesn’t. But with a regional board of more than two dozen members, candidates are far less sure of a majority.
Which begs the question, why not put the matter of electing a chair to the voters? The answer is that the regional district is, basically, a ward system, a federation of municipalities and unincorporated rural areas, which would make electing a chair at large among voters much more challenging.
Some City councils in some regional districts have tried choosing their regional district reps through the civic election process. When a council candidate is nominated, he or she indicates whether or not he or she wants to sit on the regional board if elected.
It never became a popular methodology, though, which leaves the prevailing system whereby elected councilors choose from among themselves.
Just as the regional board as a whole chooses its chair from among the elected directors.