While some mayoral, council, and school board candidates in neighbouring municipalities spent tens of thousands of dollars on their recent election campaigns, the financial disclosure statements of Hope’s politicians indicate locals value a person’s history more than their campaign promises.
Although she was born in Manitoba, Heather Stewin spent most of her upbringing in the area and considers Hope her hometown, which is why she decided to tag-team her campaigns for the Fraser-Cascade School District (SD 78) and the District of Hope’s Council in 2014.
“We have a really great school district,” explained Stewin from her home in Silver Creek. But in order for a school district to be its best, its local municipality also needs to be at the top of its game because “the two go together like pie and ice cream.
“And to make (real) change, that’s where you need to be, so I ran (in) both” 2014 elections and won seats on the school board and council.
Then in 2018, using the three signs she previously purchased for $90.33 four years previously, Stewin did it again.
“I’m a little shy,” joked Stewin. “So I only had three signs: one on my mom’s lawns, one near Buy-Low, and one at our daughter’s friend’s house.
“I think it’s not so much about those 30 (campaign) days as it is about the years and lifetime beforehand. And expectations (seem to be) different in small towns than big cities.”
A small town politician’s “main currency is (their) history and name in the community,” said District of Hope Coun. Victor Smith, who’s serving his first term as an elected official.
“I think it would be hard for somebody new to come to town not knowing anybody (because) most people (elected) have been known for volunteering, and the people you volunteer with, they’re who votes for you.”
Smith, who was born in Hope, says he believes his community contributions over the decades is what helped earn him a seat on Council, not the $1,436 he spent on his campaign.
“I’ve been involved in quite a few things over the years,” continued Smith. From starting the chainsaw carving competition, to participating in Brigade Days, to working with Community Futures, Smith says he’s invested a lifetime into getting his name out into the community, and was ready “to make a difference at the table.
“I only campaigned one day, I was working the other six days. And the one day I did go out, I went knocking on doors and met a whole wack of new people, and (even) got a few (new) volunteers to join Communities in Bloom,” he added with a chuckle.
“If people see you giving, a lot of good people will get involved in that (stuff, too). Most people on Council (are) known for volunteering.”
“You have to know the pulse of the community if you’re going to run,” said Tom Hendrickson, who’s been a sitting school board trustee for nearly 30 years.
“You go to functions, you know what people are thinking, you go around talking, you listen. I think if you look at the trustees and most of the councillors, you’ll see most who’ve run are usually involved in other things in the community.”
“A lot of people knew me anyways through Panago and my involvement in other things in the community,” added Stewin, whose family history is also well known in the area. Her father was also a SD 78 trustee, and the District named the Jim Sinclair Maintenance Centre in Hope in honour of his 30 years of contributions to the region’s education system.
But really, “my most valuable asset (this previous election) was already having a good footing (in the positions), and having been involved in the sheer number of connections we’ve made during the years,” she continued.
And Stewin and Smith both agree the best thing to spend during a campaign is your time. “It doesn’t cost you anything to talk to people, that’s free, and that’s an investment because you can’t put a dollar value on your time.”