Lake Country voters face choice between experience and change
Mayor James Baker, a political veteran, challenged by newcomer Barry Rhodes
Lake Country residents voting in next Saturday’s municipal election will choose between a mayoral candidate with decades of experience in local politics and a new man with a desire for change.
“There are some things we have in the works that I’d like to see come to fruition in the next four years,” says James Baker, the incumbent mayor of Lake Country.
Baker says he’s well experienced to get those things done.
“I’ve worked in local government for almost 30 years as regional director for the area here before we incorporated. Then, after we incorporated, I was on our first council. Then I’ve been mayor since 2005, and have worked well with all of the senior governments and other jurisdictions and the Okanagan Indian Band, the province and federal government,” said Baker. “We get along well and get things happening.”
Currently, the biggest issue for Lake Country is traffic congestion at Highway 97 and Glenmore Road, said Baker.
“We’ve been talking to a local traffic engineer who has a lot of experience, and I think we can do a short-term fix that will get done in a fairly quick time at fairly little cost to us.”
Costs will be shared by the province, the District of Lake Country, the City of Kelowna and the Okanagan Indian Band.
Work would involve creating an extra lane on Glenmore Road at the Highway 97 intersection with two left-turn arrows instead of just one, said Baker.
“If we can eliminate the blockage at Highway 97, it would improve access to our streets away from the highway.”
Another key issue for Lake Country is affordable housing, Baker said.
“We have a major development in the works that I’d like to see through.”
Going up against Baker is political newcomer Barry Rhodes, who has lived in Lake Country for five years.
Rhodes is a former corrections officer at a maximum-security prison. He is now retired and has a hobby farm in Lake Country.
“We need a change,” said Rhodes. “There are so many people complaining about a lack of infrastructure, emergency services, poor planning and the community not getting involved in any of the stuff that’s going on.”
Rhodes said he believes his leadership skills developed in his corrections career set him up well for the mayoral position.
“I don’t have a lot of experience. I’m not a political guy. I’m a jeans and T-shirt guy,” he said. “When given a task, I don’t just try my best. I do my best.”
One of the key issues Rhodes said he plans to focus on is attracting more businesses to Lake Country.
“We need to put a business plan together for having business come into Lake Country,” he said. “It seems that’s really fallen on the wayside. You can’t even go into town to buy a pair of socks.”
In speaking with residents, Rhodes said one of the biggest concerns he has heard is the lack of communication from city hall with regard to building plans.
Rhodes said changes also need to be made to improve safety.
“A lot of people have said there’s a lot more break-ins into vehicles and into homes,” he said. “We pay a lot of money in policing costs, and we need to get the value for our dollar.”
One solution may be to hire a private security company as West Kelowna has done, he suggested.
“We have such a vast area here . . . that the police can’t be everywhere.”
Lake Country elects two council members at large and four in separate wards.
Running for council at large are Oscar Barnes, Penny Gambell and Bill Scarrow.
Running for the Carrs Landing council seat are Jeanette Lambert and Cara Reed.
Running for the Oyama seat are Todd McKenzie and Justin Neufeld.
Blair Ireland was acclaimed for Okanagan Centre, and Jeremy Kozub was acclaimed for Winfield.