By David F. Rooney
It has been years since Revelstoke has seen a three-way race for mayor but now we have another with incumbent Mayor Dave Raven and former Mayor Mark McKee ready to duke it out for the hearts and minds of Revelstokians while they watch out for relative newcomer Michael Brooks-Hill.
David Raven needs little introduction to Revelstoke. A former Revelstoke Forest District manager, he first stuck his toe in the local political waters about seven years ago when he won a by-election for a Council seat. He campaigned to become mayor against former City Councillors Bill MacFarlane and Matt Singh in the 2008 civic election and was acclaimed in 2011. A smart, usually quiet and seemingly unassuming man, David is either, depending on who you talk to, a competent manager who has in this most recent term (2011-2014) tried to keep a lid on spending and taxation or he is a colourless, uninspiring bureaucrat who has allowed senior staff at City Hall call most of the shots. While Council has, since 2011, grappled with the difficult demands caused by the City’s deteriorating infrastructure, Raven has been the focus of some public anger over the past two years and has a difficult relationship with many members of the business community, in part because of business tax increases in 2012 and 2013.
Mark McKee served as a City Councillor for nine years from 1990 until 1999 but decided to not run in the 1999 election. He was also mayor for six years between 2002 and 2008 and again decided not to run in the 2008 election, as he thought he could better serve Revelstoke by running in the 2009 provincial election. Mark came in second place in that election and has, for the most part focused his energies on running his very successful business, Style Trend clothiers, which he sold in 2009, and the Telus Mobility shop on Connaught Avenue, which he recently sold to his daughter Shannon van Goor. McKee also owns and manages a number of commercial properties. Mark has for several years been the go-ahead president of the Revelstoke Community Housing Society. He is a strong believer in the need for a broad spectrum of affordable housing options in the community. He is death on bureaucratic red tape and is a firm believer in economic development and the need to attract more people, especially families, to Revelstoke. Construction of the Aquatic Centre and development of the ski hill count among his accomplishments as mayor. He has for many years been a very vocal and active campaigner for improvements to the Trans-Canada Highway. Mark is an assertive, competent individual who knowns how to listen to what others have to say and build coalitions. He is a decisive person with above average leadership skills who is passionate about the Revelstoke community and who uses every opportunity to promote it. McKee has his detractors. Some dislike his political affiliation with the BC Liberal Party even though that is clearly subordinate to his allegiance to Revelstoke. Others are, simply put, jealous of his success in business.
Michael Brooks-Hill is the joker in the deck for Raven and McKee. He is, by occupation, a tree planter and has lived in Revelstoke full-time about seven or eight years. While he has not been active in the community and is a real unknown to the true locals who families go back generations and the quasi-locals like McKee and Raven who have lived here for decades. Many younger residents, primarily those who are in their 30s and perhaps early 40s, regard him as a voice for youth. Whether or not that translates into being a potential mayor remains to be seen. His youth may seem like an asset but he has his work cut out for him when it comes to galvanizing the so-called youth vote, which has in the past been generally apathetic. The danger to Brooks-Hill is that his impact on the race may be as negligible this year as Singh’s was in 2008 when he received just 184 votes versus 1,000 for MacFarlane and 1,458 for David Raven.
You and the other 5,663 eligible voters, up from 5,416 in in 2011, will get to make up your own mind on Saturday, November 15. Between now and then you should learn as much as you can about these three men and you should definitely attend the Chamber of Commerce’s Forum for Mayoral Candidates that is being held at the Community Centre on October 28. (There is a separate All-Candidates Forum for would-be Councillors on October 22, as well as a Council Candidate One-on-One on October 25. Please click here to learn more about those events. In the meantime, here are three separate video interviews with these candidates for mayor: