Ho­vanes says run for mayor his last


In a town with a tra­di­tion of re­turn­ing in­cum­bents, there is no short­age of chal­lengers to the two women and five men seek­ing to re­tain their seats around the Oliver coun­cil ta­ble.

Three-term Mayor Ron Ho­vanes faces a chal­lenge from a can­di­date with a strong man­age­ment re­sume run­ning on a plat­form cen­tred on the need to change lead­er­ship.

While a bit short on de­tails, Martin Jo­hansen told an all-can­di­dates meeting at the Frank Ven­ables The­atre on Wed­nes­day evening that con­ver­sa­tions with lo­cal res­i­dents make it “clear there is an ap­petite for change in lead­er­ship.” He added that Oliver faces a “fork in the road” and added: “You can go with me, or you can go around in a cir­cle and end up back at the fork in the road.”

Jo­hansen works as a se­nior man­ager for the City of Kelowna and says his ex­pe­ri­ence makes him ide­ally suited for the mayor’s chair. He claims four-gen­er­a­tion roots in the com­mu­nity and plans to re­tire there. His wife works at the South Okana­gan Gen­eral Hospi­tal in Oliver.

Cur­rently, Jo­hansen’s lead­er­ship skills are on dis­play as coach of the South Okana­gan ban­tam hockey team.

Ho­vanes was born and raised in Oliver and op­er­ates a lo­cal busi­ness with his wife, Tara. He dropped a bit of news on Wed­nes­day’s fo­rum when he vol­un­teered that this will be his last may­oral cam­paign.

The an­nounce­ment came as part of an an­swer to a res­i­dent who asked if Ho­vanes would com­mit to serv­ing out his term rather than step­ping down half-way through to run provin­cially.

The mayor has long been touted as a pos­si­ble suc­ces­sor to Lib­eral MLA Linda Lar­son. He seemed a bit taken aback by the ques­tion and de­clined to make such a com­mit­ment, say­ing he prefers to “keep my op­tions open . . . . What plays out in the fu­ture will play out in the fu­ture.”

Ho­vanes has served two terms as a coun­cil­lor and three as mayor.

“If I’m re-elected, this will be my last term as mayor,” he said.

All four in­cum­bent coun­cil­lors are run­ning to re­tain their seats and they ex­em­plify the Oliver vot­ers’ ten­dency to value decades-long at­tach­ments to the com­mu­nity.

Larry Schwartzen­berger is the short­est-term Oliver res­i­dent, hav­ing moved there 27 years ago. He was elected to coun­cil in a by­elec­tion in 2013 and re­turned in the 2014 gen­eral.

Dave Mat­tes was born in Oliver, moved away af­ter high school but re­turned to run a suc­cess­ful busi­ness in the town, from which he has since re­tired. He was elected to coun­cil last fall in the by­elec­tion to re­place re­tir­ing coun­cil­lor Jack Bennest.

In 2014, Mat­tes fell vic­tim to a rare ex­cep­tion to the ten­dency to re­turn in­cum­bents to of­fice when he fin­ished fifth in the race for four seats, de­feated by rookie can­di­date Pe­tra Vein­timilla, who ac­tu­ally topped the polls.

To be fair, Vein­timilla was a new­comer in name only, com­ing from a prom­i­nent lo­cal fam­ily and with deep roots in the lo­cal busi­ness mi­lieu and in the pop­u­lous Por­tuguese and South Asian com­mu­ni­ties.

Mau­reen Do­err, who moved to Oliver when she was nine, is a small busi­ness owner and pres­i­dent of the lo­cal cham­ber of com­merce and works at the lo­cal Buy-Low Foods. She was elected in 2011 and re-elected in 2014.

Do­err of­fered one of the evening’s few sharp dif­fer­ences of opin­ion when she cor­rected Jo­hansen, who ac­cused the cur­rent coun­cil of “sell­ing the farm” with a 10-year tax ex­emp­tion granted to the owner of the re­cently com­pleted ho­tel.

She point­ing out that the 10-year ex­emp­tion on im­prove­ments was not spe­cific to the ho­tel but open to any­one as part of coun­cil’s ef­forts to spur de­vel­op­ment in and around the town’s down­town core.

The chal­lengers for a coun­cil seat this time around are Aimee Grice, who fin­ished se­cond to Mat­tes in the 2017 by­elec­tion, and first-time can­di­date Der­mott Hut­ton.

Grice is a self-styled “com­mu­nity ad­vo­cate,” who re­cently started a lo­cal af­ford­able hous­ing so­ci­ety, is vice-pres­i­dent of the cham­ber of com­merce and works as the mar­ket­ing man­ager at the Frank Ven­ables The­atre.

Hut­ton is a small busi­ness owner who moved to Oliver two years ago but says he has al­ready de­vel­oped a pas­sion for the com­mu­nity. He prom­ises to bring a “fresh per­spec­tive and a new en­ergy to our town.”

He said lit­tle that sep­a­rated him from the pack, but he did get the big­gest laugh of the evening when he re­counted his slo­gan as a can­di­date for Grade-6 class pres­i­dent: “Don’t be a her­mit. Vote for Der­mott.”

In a break from the long-stand­ing tra­di­tion of ac­cla­ma­tions for the po­si­tion of wa­ter coun­cil­lor, vet­er­ans Rick Machial and An­dre Miller face chal­lenges from a pair of youth­ful lo­cal farm­ers. (Wa­ter coun­cil­lors rep­re­sent the ru­ral users of res­i­den­tial and agri­cul­tural wa­ter pro­vided by the town. They at­tend coun­cil meet­ings but only vote on mat­ters re­lated to wa­ter.)

Par­min­der Sidhu said he was born in Oliver and in­tends to stay there. He said his fam­ily farm em­ploys con­ser­va­tion­ist strate­gies to re­duce wa­ter use and sees the wa­ter coun­cil­lors’ main role as pro­tect­ing the area’s wa­ter sup­ply.

David Machial, who is Rick’s nephew, said that the ex­pe­ri­ence that his uncle and Miller of­fer is im­por­tant, but suc­ces­sion plan­ning is as well. He has a busi­ness de­gree and the in­ten­tion of stay­ing on the fam­ily farm for his ca­reer. “If you think that re­newal is im­por­tant, vote for me.”

Wed­nes­day’s fo­rum was spon­sored by the South Okana­gan Cham­ber of Com­merce and the Oliver Chron­i­cle.

Spe­cial to the Her­ald

Oliver res­i­dents packed the Frank Ven­ables The­atre on Wed­nes­day night for an all-can­di­dates fo­rum.

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