Big Valley’s public forum attracted a full house Wednesday evening for two hours of interesting discussion. Voters were given the opportunity to become better informed about their choices, while the candidates were allowed to openly express their views. In alphabetical order, participating candidates were Crystal Bardwell, Keith Campbell, Wayne Garrison, Rick Kargaard, Gail Knudson, Lois Miller, Walter Stefanik, and Art Tizzard. Special thanks must go out to moderator Lori Gordon, who expertly treated all the candidates fairly while not publicly allying herself with any candidate. As people filled the drop-in centre, it was encouraging to see so many seats filled. Beginning with opening speeches, the evening progressed to an informative audience question and answer session, uncovering the significant issues of this village.
Incumbents Gail Knudson, Wayne Garrison and Walter Stefanik all expressed their appreciation for past support and stated their belief that their work was not complete.
Acknowledging that the past three years have been a learning experience, Mr. Garrison maintained “We have accomplished a lot but there is much more to do,” continuing with a promise to work towards the continued improvement of the village, if elected.
Gail Knudson believes it is the responsibility of council members to be open and accessible to the citizens. “I believe everyone in the village has the right to be heard.” She went on to express her conviction in the great potential of this community, and the importance that Big Valley remains an affordable place to live.
Walter Stefanik served the last three years as mayor. Inheriting a regime on the verge of bankruptcy, Mr. Stefanik is justifiably pleased with the progress this past council has made toward solvency. Admitting that much of the village infrastructure is old and needs work, he is in favour of a step by step approach to improvement, encouraging fiscal prudence.
Council hopeful Lois Miller was one of several to advocate business attraction as a key to the future success of Big Valley. “If elected, I would like to promote more growth of both residential and businesses in our town. We need to keep our Main Street alive and well.”
Crystal Bardwell states she is passionate about many issues that affect the village. She believes this is a vibrant community that has a lot going for it. “We need to sustain the small community atmosphere while attracting more young families to our village.” she says. Her concerns include unfinished projects and the inability of the village to retain a qualified public works operator. As the parent of school aged children, she brings another point of view to the table.
Tax reduction was an overriding issue for long time resident Rick Kargaard. Citing his years of business and political experience as important assets, as a retiree, he believes he has the time to devote himself to the job. Mr. Kargaard’s priorities also include improving infrastructure, encouraging business, and “building a team of village council and employees that is knowledgeable, efficient, dedicated and responsive to the needs and concerns of our residents…”
Agreeing with much of what the other candidates had to say, Keith Campbell also encouraged continued citizen involvement, stressing the importance of regular citizen participation at council meetings.
Business owner Art Tizzard is proud to be part of a community where everyone seems to stand together. He stated that he fully supported many of the decisions of this past council. Also acknowledging the need for infrastructure improvements and retaining a qualified public works operator, Mr. Tizzard seems positive about the future of Big Valley.
Everyone agreed that Big Valley is a vibrant, family friendly community whose small town charm is worth preserving. Continued community input is necessary to find proper solutions to the important issues we face. It was useful for this community to see where the candidates stand on key issues and in the end, it’s likely all who attended gathered a better understanding of just what their choices are when they head to the polls on Oct. 18.