The latest candidate to enter the city’s mayoral race was once at the centre of controversy at the city council table.
Steve Wood, who announced this week his intention to run for mayor, is being remembered for his last term on council as an absentee councillor.
Wood, who served two consecutive terms on council in the 1990s, including between 1996-1999, missed several council meetings throughout his last year on Campbell River city council.
In November 1998, Wood took a job on the Lower Mainland and by January 1999 had only attended two regularly scheduled council meetings, according to an old news report in the Campbell River Mirror. Wood said work called him away.
“Like so many families today, I had to secure full time employment outside of the community to provide for my family,” Wood told the Mirror Thursday. “In early 1999 I accepted terms to a full time permanent position in Burnaby while commuting home to Campbell River to see my family and attend council meetings.”
Wood held on to his council seat by fulfilling the minimum attendance required by the B.C. Municipal Act.
The Act dictated that a councillor forfeits his or her seat if he or she is absent for 60 days, or four regularly scheduled council meetings – whichever period is longer.
Wood at the time said he was making as many meetings as he could and held on to his seat.
He said, however, that he did re-sign before the next election.
“After concluding the ’99 budget discussions and deliberations, I immediately resigned from office and my councillor position,” Wood said.
Wood’s situation draws some parallels to Coun. Ryan Mennie, who has stayed on city council while living in Lethbridge, Alta. since June.
Like Wood, Mennie moved for work and came under fire from several residents who petitioned for Mennie to resign. Mennie committed, however, to see out the rest of his term and has been present at all council meetings via Skype.
Meanwhile, the two candidates running against Wood now for the mayor’s chair, Coun. Andy Adams and current mayor, Walter Jakeway, said they both have limited knowledge of the circumstances surrounding Wood’s last tenure on council.
Adams said at the time he was serving on the city’s Advisory Planning Committee as a community member at large.
“I was aware that he had left town and there were some concerns from council, however, I do not know any of the details,” Adams said.
Jakeway, who was living in Port Alberni then, said he has heard from those living in Campbell River at the time about Wood’s situation but said he welcomes the challenge from Wood.
“I am surprised that he has since chosen to re-enter local politics, but it is a free country,” Jakeway said. “He must have his reasons. The more candidates, the more selection the citizens have on Nov. 15.”
Wood said, if elected, he intends to conduct an organizational and core services review to find efficiencies and cost savings and says he is committed to working with all councillors and city staff.
“A key role and responsibility of the mayor is to create a cooperative and functioning team within city council and City Hall, in order to provide positive, effective community leadership,” Wood said in his nomination announcement released Monday. “Public communications in dealing with other levels of government and First Nations must be proactive, respectful, and goal oriented.”
Wood is expected to be opening a campaign office within the next few weeks.
Editor’s Note: This version of the story includes Steve Wood’s response to a request for comment that was not forthcoming in time to meet our press deadline and thus differs from the Friday newsprint edition. It will be reprinted in our next issue on Oct. 15.