Q&A: We asked candidates for mayor of Revelstoke about their priorities and CAO retention

In this special edition of the Mountaineer's Q&A, we reached out to candidates running for mayor of Revelstoke to learn about their priorities and plans for CAO retention if elected.

File photo: City hall. Photo: Nora Hughes

The Revelstoke Mountaineer’s question and answer series with city council candidates cover a wide variety of issues that are likely to be central to the upcoming municipal election on Oct. 15, 2022. The series features verbatim answers written by the candidates themselves. The questions were created by the Mountaineer’s multimedia community reporter, Nora Hughes.

In the 2022 local election, two candidates are running for Mayor of Revelstoke.

As mayor of Revelstoke, the elected official provides leadership to the council and ensures good governance of the municipality. Priorities of the mayor matter not only to residents but also to the success of the town’s livability.

The city’s chief administrative officer (CAO) position has been an expensive revolving door in recent years. Large payout packages were received by CAOs who were unsuccessful in the position, and the city has gone through multiple interim CAOs. Read more information on the city’s past CAOs here.

We asked candidates for mayor of Revelstoke the following:

  1. What is the top issue you wish to progress if elected, and how do you plan to do so?
  2. In lieu of past CAO turnover and payout, what will you do if elected to hire a CAO who will be successful in the position?

Here are the responses from the candidates:

Gary Sulz (candidate for mayor)

Gary Sulz is running for Mayor of Revelstoke. Photo: Gary Sulz
  1. Housing and employee retention are the number one issue in the community. Under my leadership over the past four years we have seen 190 affordable units either constructed or under construction. 276 new employee housing units are at the Building Permit Stage for RMR, 92 units in Phase 1. Commencement on that project has just started. We also have 184 units at the Approved stage (Approved Zoning, Subdivision and Development Permit) so all together there would be approximately 650 Units that are at various stages of the planning process, some constructed, some under construction, and some with zoning or development permit approval. This would be a mix of affordable units, employee housing, some new and some renovations to existing buildings. In addition to that I have had several conversations with our MLA Doug Clovechok, requesting some crown land for additional affordable housing. We have also changed zoning which allows the additional building of garden suites on some existing lots. With all this and some private developments in the queue, housing is moving in the direction we need to serve our residents. With this increased affordable housing we should see the ability of our businesses to hire and retain staff throughout the year.
  2. Having a CAO who wants to live and work in Revelstoke will be the key. A CAO who leads by example and has a motivating persona goes a long way for the community. A leader who cares, has the staff’s best interests at heart, works well with Council and wants to assist the residents in our community is what is needed. These are the attributes that I am looking for in the next CAO. I believe that we may have found this in our Interim CAO and I am excited about what the future will hold for us.

Nicole Cherlet (candidate for mayor)

Nicole Cherlet is in the running for mayor of Revelstoke. Photo: Nicole Cherlet

1. Our top issue as a community is availability of housing – I’ve spoken to an alarming number of residents of different income brackets that are considering leaving the community for lack of suitable housing. Shelter is a basic human right – to feel safe, and to be able to fully participate in our economy and community, one must not be unsure of where they will lay their head tomorrow, next month, or next season.

Our community holds many different beliefs about what “suitable shelter” looks like, and our council needs to understand that diversity as we assess our current state and choose the next steps for zoning and bylaws. Past decisions have been derailed by misunderstanding values and priorities, which has held up progress. I will make sure that part of our Council orientation includes defining our own values and setting priorities, measurable outcomes, and setting a committee structure and schedule to review progress.

That progress will be communicated with the community and our partners on a regular basis, both through our existing tools on Talk Revelstoke, and in person through Council appointments to committees and boards. Feedback and ideas for improvements will be invited and have a clear path back to the Council table for discussion.

I am passionate about affordability – I believe that all of our residents deserve the dignity of basic human rights, that they will be better positioned to participate and volunteer when those needs are met. I am committed to doing the work to champion these discussions locally, listen and work to integrate all the voices, and to advocate persistently to provincial and federal governments to ensure our city gets the direct investment it needs as a growing hub in a global community.

2. It has been a frustrating 4 years watching leader after leader move on for various reasons. As a result of that turnover, our City Hall has been struggling with a lack of clear leadership and an ill-defined communication style.

The typical, traditional style of governance and politics is one of closed doors and cautious information sharing on a need to know basis. I would like to thank Mayor Sulz for his work to change that style – his willingness to have all voices heard at the table has had a noticeable impact as we faced some big challenges as a Council team. The pandemic rules and separation made relationship building difficult, and our staff have been adopting technology and learning best practices at an unprecedented rate. I’m running for Mayor because I want to see these lessons brought to our way of working together and I know I have the experience and skills to help with that change management.

I’ve had several long discussions with our current interim CAO about how clear communication protocols can help smooth out collaboration – both internally between Council and staff, and externally with residents and partners. If he connects well with the new Council team, I would be interested in discussing a permanent contract and getting to work on plans for budget discussions. My work as the Mayor and Chair of the Council is to help bring the diverse voices of Council and our partners into enough alignment to act boldly. With a clear understanding of what resources are being allocated in proactive work plans, we can set the new CAO up for measurable success and hopefully a long relationship.

If you have any questions regarding the Mountaineer’s Q&A series, please contact Community Reporter Nora Hughes: nora@revelstokemountaineer.com.

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Nora Hughes is a recent graduate of the Thompson Rivers University Interdisciplinary Program, where she combined her passions for Adventure Tourism, Communications and Journalism. With a strong interest in community news, Nora is passionate about giving a voice and face to the people of Revelstoke through storytelling.