Despite the political disruptions that have taken place in Sayward, a special emergency response team has been appointed to tackle COVID-19 challenges. (Submitted photo )

Subsequent mayors’ resignations leaves Island village with a governance vacuum in perilous times

Sayward council will confer to elect an interim mayor almost a month after previous resignation as it continues to tackle COVID-19 with an emergency response team

After three resignations in March, the council members of Sayward will be convening a meeting on April 21 to select an interim acting mayor until a new mayor is elected after the COVID-19 pandemic settles.

On March 19, the acting mayor of Sayward, Joyce Ellis, announced her resignation citing “personal circumstances” and the need to “focus on family and health” as the reason for stepping down from the post.

The choices narrow down to the three existing councilmen of Sayward: Wes Cragg, Bill Ives and Norm Kirschner.

Councillor Bill Ives from the Sayward council said that “if all three councillors participate we should be able to walk away with a new acting mayor.”

This will be the third attempt for the council to select a mayor said Councillor Wes Cragg.

Talking about the urgency to elect an acting mayor, Cragg said that there are many “challenges” and “procedural issues” that need to be addressed at the earliest.”

Ellis’ resignation came in a week after the former mayor, John MacDonald, submitted his resignation citing similar reasons of “personal circumstances.”

In a March 13 press release issued by the village of Sayward, MacDonald said, “ The Village of Sayward is in reasonably good shape having secured funding for the water diversion project and the new water treatment plant; I feel it is now time to move on to enjoying my retirement with my family and friends. I will of course, continue to be an active member of our great little community.”

After serving as the mayor for 12 years since 2008, MacDonald is recorded to be the longest-serving mayor of Sayward since its incorporation in 1968.

These resignations were also followed by the resignation of the Chief Administrative Officer, rounding the numbers to three resignations within a month.

The series of resignations has raised some eyebrows.

While refusing to comment on the departures of the former council members, Councillor Ives said that for voters who are observing the disruptions, this will provide an impetus to make a “good choice” when the next election is slotted.

Speaking about the selection of the next acting mayor, Ives also added that the position will be filled for a very short time until they get the green light from the government, after COVID-19 to hold the next elections in Sayward.

While the day-to-day operations of Sayward are overseen by the existing council members, a special emergency team consisting of a ministry-appointed acting corporate officer has also been set up to address COVID-19 related issues.

“The whole village is closed, except the health clinic and the post office, which are also following the laid-out protocols,” said Ives.

Despite the vacuum, the council has ensured that the community has regular updates on the evolving COVID-19 situation.

“Majority of the advisories and information flyers have been mailed to everybody in the village with regular updates,” said Ives. “Everything is absolutely fine at Sayward.”

While indicating that the political situation and disruptions that have taken place of late in Sayward has contributed to stress, the council has undertaken significant measures to counter the situation when it comes to the pandemic, said Cragg.

“Our emergency response team along with Shaun Koopman, the protective services coordinator, emergency management, Strathcona Regional District, has addressed the COVID-19 situation in an impressive fashion,” said Cragg, adding the key to that was by providing people with apt information.

Cragg pointed out that the committee is trying to provide information that is transparent and accessible to all community members.

“In any pandemic, people are always worried about five basic things: health, housing, governance, security and food, and we’ve addressed those issues in informative videos that we have made for the community of Sayward,” he said.

“Even though there’s stress with the political situation, the people of Sayward also know that we’re keeping them safe with all these measures.”

READ ALSO: Campbell River area under provincial open burn ban

READ ALSO: Strathcona Regional District closes some parks

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