After 14 years in office District of Vanderhoof Mayor Gerry Thiessen told the Express he won’t be seeking re-election in October after his current term ends.
“It will be a change. Being the mayor of a small town is a full-time job. You think about your community and you live through the highs and the lows,” Thiessen said.
He hopes the next mayor will be someone with experience on council who understands how the municipality works. “An understanding of what the community charter is and what is expected would be significant.”
Before taking office Thiessen was president of the Canadian Real Estate Association — which meant travelling to Ottawa regularly. Running for mayor meant a chance to be in his hometown of Vanderhoof full-time.
“I was looking for something else to do that would be significant… I had strong support from my wife,” Thiessen said.
Over the past 14-years, Thiessen said there have been “lots of changes” that improve quality of life for residents in the district including the swimming pool, skate park, and new soccer fields.
He said the district’s relationship with First Nations “has taken a big turn” for the better through the regional district signing an agreement with the Nechako First Nations regarding governance of the Nechako River.
More recently, Thiessen is excited about the Parkview Place seniors living facility coming to fruition. He said there has always been a need for more seniors’ housing in the community.
“That was never a secret. We had a large number of people in the hospital that would be there for up to two years. They weren’t really sick but they were elderly and there wasn’t any place for them. It wasn’t a good situation,” Thiessen said.
He said Vanderhoof is “on the cusp of some pretty exciting things” like the Artemis Gold project that is expected to begin initial works in the third quarter of 2022.
Another focus right now is to get fibre-optic internet set up throughout Vanderhoof.
“Our community is on the cusp of wanting to grow but in order to grow properly you have to have access to the same information that everybody else does,” Thiessen said.
He said housing availability is another issue that needs to be solved for the community to grow.
“We’ve really fallen behind in the last couple of years. We’re averaging about two or three new houses-a-year. Before that we were averaging probably 10 new houses-a-year and we really need to get back to that.”
After finishing his last term the outgoing mayor hopes to spend more time with family amid some uncertainty as far as next steps go.
Thiessen said he would love to join a committee working on seniors, youth or healthcare issues but he hasn’t found one yet.
“If I do get a chance to serve in that way it would be good.”