COURTENAY, B.C. – Courtenay’s new mayor laid out a blueprint of his vision for the city over the next four years during his inaugural address Monday afternoon.

Bob Wells, who edged out incumbent Larry Jangula in the Oct. 20 municipal election, spoke about affordable housing, policing, and civic transparency as he sat in the mayor’s chair for the first time.

“We are in a new era,” Wells said. “The citizens of Courtenay have elected a progressive council and I look forward to the many strategic priorities and issues we will tackle this term. I ran on a platform of collaboration and cooperation that starts at City Council and runs through City Hall.”

Wells said there still be healthy debate among council members, “as our democracy depends on it.”

“But I have high expectations for professionalism, to ensure we treat each other at the table with respect,” he added.

Community members, friends, and family filled council chambers to welcome Wells along with councillors Wendy Morin, David Frisch, Doug Hillian, Melanie Mccollum, Manno Theos, and Will Cole-Hamilton as they took part in the City’s inaugural council meeting.

The short meeting was highlighted by a speech from Wells who began by acknowledging that we live, work, and play in the unceded traditional territory of the K’ómoks First Nation, and thanked K’ómoks Chief Nicole Rempel for her welcoming remarks.

The former City councillor then thanked everyone who ran for municipal office.

“It takes courage to put your name out there, and I acknowledge the sacrifices it takes to run,” he said.

“I also want to thank those who came out to vote. There was a five percent increase in voter turnout and I was constantly stopped on the street by people who said they were voting for the first time in their life, and I hope this trend continues.”

Wells went on to say that affordable housing was the single most talked about issue during the election.

“We need to create our own strategy to ensure we explore any opportunities, and create affordable housing and rental stock,” he said.

The new mayor said he is excited that North Island College has the potential to create student housing, which he noted, will reduce pressure on the rental housing market in Courtenay.

“So we need to know how we can help,” Wells said. “Affordable housing is also a regional issue, and we need to work with our local, provincial, and federal governments to create more affordable housing.”

Wells also said council will strive to create a more open and transparent government that engages with the community.

“I met with each councillor to let them know that although I’m mayor and spokesperson for the city, I will also rely on them to look for opportunities to engage with our citizens,” he said.

Wells said he met with new RCMP Officer in Charge Mike Kurvers, “and we’re in excellent hands with him and the rest of his team.”

“Our council will give him a list of priorities for the RCMP, so they know what we want them to focus on, which includes a communications plan.”

 Wells added that he will work to help grow the local business community.

“We’ll create an entrepreneurial task force to ensure we are creating the best (business) ecosystem on Vancouver Island, whether people are starting, growing, or moving their businesses here.”