With a new chair at the helm of the Comox Valley Regional District Board, former chair Jesse Ketler is reflecting on her work achieved while in that role.
Ketler served as chair for four consecutive years, taking the CVRD through multiple major projects and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Among those successes include the new Comox Valley water treatment facility, creating the first regional emergency operations centre and establishing a prominent relationship with the K’ómoks First Nation.
“We made a commitment to uphold the United Nations declaration on the rights of Indigenous people and we really wanted to put Indigenous relations at the top of the list,” said Ketler.
“We ended up co-creating with the K’ómoks First Nation an Indigenous framework and that was so no matter who was at the table they would know what to expect in terms of how to be respectful, how to work with each other and how to continue down the path of reconciliation.”
Ketler adds they were also able to create a reconciliation advisory panel, with the goal to share First Nations knowledge and insight with local governments.
During those four years, however, there were some challenges including getting the regional emergency operation centre off the ground and constantly getting new and conflicting information at the start of the pandemic.
“One of the biggest challenges over the four years was trying to figure out climate change and incorporate climate actions into our operations and into the broader community,” said Ketler.
“I think it has really been a struggle to get the baseline data that we need for good decision making and it just effects so many things that it’s a really complex issue and hard to implement.”
Some things that helped included getting grant funding to calculate sea level rise and predict its effects on the city. She adds they were also able to electrify the district’s fleet and encourage others to use more active transport and transit.
Over the years of leading the board, Ketler adds that she learned how caring the community and its residents are for others.
“We’re one of very few regional districts in the province that has a homelessness support tax. That was supported by the community in a referendum in 2015,” said Ketler.
“They also care about natural spaces, and we’ve had so many delegations from the community about helping to conserve different recreation or ecologically important areas.”
Ketler adds the strong and sustained interest in environment was part of the inspiration for the Parks and Trails service, which was made last September.
She adds the district is being left in good hands with new chair Will Cole-Hamilton and vice-chair Jonathan Kerr and considers the opportunity to serve as chair for four-years an honour.