Michele Babchuk, the chair of Campbell River’s school board, says her time in public office has prepared her to run for a spot on city council.
Babchuk has been a school trustee on School District 72’s board of education for nine years and spent three of those years as the chair and four years as the vice-chair.
“I think I bring leadership skills, communication skills and I think I understand local government – how policy affects everyday people and the importance of accountability,” Babchuk says. “I have been very lucky to work with the people I have at the school district for almost a decade. The whole organization has supported me and allowed me to grow…and taught me how to administer a $50 million budget that is almost as big as, if not larger, than the city’s.”
Babchuk says with her kids growing up she realized it was time to make the jump to city hall.
“When I was first elected in 2005, I felt like a parent advocate voice on the board and I feel strongly I fulfilled that parent voice role, but I no longer have children in the system,” says Babchuk, who has a married, 25-year-old son, a 21-year-old daughter and a four-year-old granddaughter. “I feel that parent voice needs to be there in order for the organization to grow and I actually hope through this process that there are parents out there who will put their name out there to not only advocate for this district but for public education as a whole.”
Babchuk, who has been married for 27 years and a resident of Campbell River since New Year’s Eve 1999, said she’s excited for the opportunity to run for council and feels she has the right tools for success.
“I think it’s a pivotal time in the city and I want to make sure we get on that bus,” Babchuk says. “There’s a lot of things going on right now and a lot of things have an expiration date, like the John Hart Dam project and the hospital, but I think there is a lot of opportunity to capitalize on those projects and not just let them finish and go back to what we had before.”
Babchuk is also not one to make empty promises.
“You won’t see me come out with any unilateral promises; I’m never going to say I won’t raise your taxes, or I’m going to gut city hall, because I don’t think those are responsible statements,” Babchuk says. “I think any organization, to be fiscally responsible, needs to look at its staff but I think it’s wrong to come out and make those statements and it’s that kind of philosophy that I’ll be running on.
“Campbell River’s a great place to live and I think we need to celebrate what we have here and turn all those negatives into positives and start looking into the future.”
Babchuk said part of her focus will be on trying to attract community-oriented economic development.
“It’s about companies wanting to come here, setting up shop, being sustainable and providing good paying jobs so that our young people aren’t having to West Jet off to Alberta to make that money,” Babchuk says.
“We’ve done a good job attracting seniors and retirees and they’re important but I don’t believe it makes our community as diverse as it should be. Healthy communities cannot rely on one segment of the population to drive their base.”
That’s a philosophy Babchuk is applying to her decision to step away from the school board, which Babchuk says offered her so much support.
“I really would love to thank everybody for supporting me, mentoring me and teaching me everything I learned,” Babchuk says. “I have been very lucky to work with the people I have at the school district for almost a decade.”