By David F. Rooney
Scott Duke, the entrepreneur who was the driving force behind Stoke FM and Revelstoke Property Services, is making a bid for Council in next year’s civic election.
He is the first — but is unlikely to be the only — new face to announce his intention to run for a Council seat. Scott is the vanguard of an informal political movement calling itself Focus Revelstoke.
The ad hoc group has been around for about six months and is composed of business people, working people, retirees and others convinced that City Hall needs a political make-over. I know of at least one other member of the group thinking of making a Council bid.
Despite their common desire to see a brand-new Mayor and Council, less red tape, greater efficiency, lower spending, lower taxes (or at least a hold-the-line attitude towards taxation) and strategies that will grow the economy by encouraging businesses to invest here instead of frightening them off, the Focus Revelstokee is not political party. Nor are its members all from one political political party either. Some are liberals, provincially and/or federally. A few are conservative. Over all, Focus Revelstoke’s membership covers the center-left to center-right of the political spectrum.
The City’s brand new proposed budget was an opportunity to gauge Scott Duke’s thinking. Here’s what the 32-year-old told The Current on Friday:
“I was present at the budget meeting last night and do keep close tabs on the budgeting process as a Chamber Director and as a concerned citizen.
“My largest concern is the huge increase in spending over the last 10 years to operate our town. The presented budget did not address this and the increase in spending appears to have no end in sight. Ski hill or not, it has gotten out of control. To keep all of our taxes at a zero percent increase, Graham Inglis stated there would have to be $200,000 in savings found. This to me seems like a task the current Council should take on as a personal challenge. With a $20 million budget, $200,000 is only a 1% cut. These savings could surely be found, if it was a primary focus and a defined goal.
“If the Court House roof was managed properly this year, those savings alone would have allowed us to have a zero percent tax increase. What challenges my patience the most, though, is that throughout every budget process I have watched since moving to Revelstoke, there has never been any talk of increasing revenue through making Revelstoke a more attractive place to build and invest. If we could combine saving with increasing revenue, our town would be well positioned to pay off our $15,500,000 in debt more quickly. The proposed budget only calls for increasing our debt through 2017. A lower debt burden would improve the living condition for everyone who calls Revelstoke home.
“Over all, the whole budget process will be great to watch and be part of this season. Either this Council gets the courage to cut back on their spending or a new council will clean up the mess afterwards. Either way, the future in Revelstoke looks incredibly bright.”
Scott’s a big believer in our community’s future.
“Ever since I came here five years ago I’ve believed this to be an amazing place that a lot of people want to move to,” said the Mississauga, Ontario, native. “But it just needs some small improvements.”
Mostly, it needs a taxation regime that isn’t going to scare away investors, a slightly larger population — Scott thinks 10,000 is a good size and is, in fact, achievable within five years — and a local willingness to believe in Revelstoke’s potential.
A lot of the people he meets through Stoke FM and through Revelstoke Property Services also want to see Revelstoke become a community that is growing — not slowly declining.
It may take hard work, but that’s not something he’s afraid of.
“Although I’m young I have done a lot of things,” he said in an interview last week.
“I started my first company when I was in university to pay for university. It was a property – cottage — management company and had 24 staff. So I got a lot of experience working with and managing people. I also built Canada’s largest wakeboard facility as a kids’ camp.”
He also sold — and still sell from time to time — hot dogs, worked as a roofer and in the building industry with Macdog Construction. Then Scott and his partner, Eve Northmore, started a property management company and the radio station.
“There are small challenges to city needs,” Scott said. People know what lies before us. People know there’s over-spending at City Hall. People know there’s still a struggle for the town’s identity between it being a resort town and a blue-collar industry town. But challenges like those can be overcome. People know that. We’re so close to a really incredible future… so close.”
One of the keys to unlocking that incredible future, though, is attracting new businesses and industries to Revelstoke that pay well enough that our working-age men and women can earn enough to raise their families without having to go North or to Alberta to work u the Oil Patch.
“There’s a fear that Revelstoke will change with… I don’t know a new guard or a change on Council,” he said. “The reason I live here and the reason the people I know live here is because they like it the way it is. I want Revelstoke to remain the same — I just want it to be more sustainable.”
The city could use a new major business “what some people call an anchor business,” but it’s likely to get more small business.
A lot of the existing small businesses in Revelstoke are thriving and their success is something that should be used to help bring other small businesses here.”
There are too many empty business spaces in town but if we can fill them with new businesses that pay decent wages we can start turning things around.
“But we have to fill them,” he said. “Empty storefronts are no good for anybody.”
Wise words, Scott.
Does Scott Duke have any skeletons in his closet? Maybe, but nothing that seems apparent at the moment.
In any event, the civic election is slated for November 15, 2014. That’s 351 days to develop a winning campaign