Shane Brienen is challenging Bill Holmberg for mayor in the upcoming municipal election in November.
Brienen has been on council for three terms and says he is ready for a step up, “a new challenge.”
His top priority for Houston is balancing the new budget and dealing with revenue cutbacks due to the closure of Houston Forest Products.
“The biggest thing is how we go about those cuts… achieving those cuts while still keeping the community appealing for people to live in,” Brienen said, adding that it won’t be easy balancing out services with cutbacks.
His other top priorities are 24 hour health care and fixing and repaving roads.
Getting 24 hour health care has been an ongoing struggle since before he was on council, Brienen said.
“I still feel that Houston is deserving of that… Being an industrial town, with people working through the night and people in the backcountry with the logging and mining, 24 hour health care is an important thing. And it’s hard to attract investment in your community when people know that you don’t have health care available at night.”
With roads, Brienen says the District has been falling behind with upkeep and “it would be really nice to get caught up.”
Asked about highlights from his past three terms on council, Brienen said the top one was getting respite beds at the Health Centre.
“To be able to have people stay here when they’re in their final days… it makes it a lot easier for families instead of having to run into Smithers or Burns Lake all the time,” he said.
He added that the other big accomplishment was getting funding for the water treatment plant.
“That was a big one for the community, for the people that live here but also for people that come in and invest. If you want to build a new hotel or a new restaurant, it’s kind of hard to do something like that and have that dirty water pouring out of your taps,” he said.
Running for his third term as mayor, Bill Holmberg says his top priority is financial stability.
“The next four years are going to be crucial for the well-being of this town. I think you need somebody that’s got good financial background and strong people skills,” Holmberg said.
With the $600,000 revenue loss, “you better have somebody in there that can make tough decisions when they need to be made.”
Holmberg’s other top priorities are economic stability and infrastructure.
“I think the big thing we have to bring in is some secondary industry. We’re still going to be a resource town and there’s no denying that and there’s no shame in that,” he said.
“We’re working right now with the forest service and license holders to see if we can bring in some value-added sawmills. It’s still a ways away but those are the types of things that I want to work on.”
He also sees continuing improvements on infrastructure as a top priority, and projects like the deteriorating water reservoir.
Asked what he sees as the big accomplishments from his time as mayor, Holmberg said low tax rates was a big one.
“We’ve had some of the lowest property taxes in the province. We’ve fought hard to keep property taxes low and that’s been huge,” he said.
The second big thing was getting funding for the water treatment plant.
“That has been huge,” he said.
Councillor Jonathan Van Barneveld said he will run again for Houston council.
Michalle Jolly said she will not run, as her husband was transferred to Quesnel after the HFP closure and her family is moving.
Other councillors Rick Lundrigan, Dawn Potvin and Kyle Thomson are either undecided or could not be reached by press deadline.
The length of term for mayor and council changes this year into four year terms instead of three.
Houston’s municipal election is November 15 and nominations for mayor and council are open until mid-October. See ad on this page for details.