Larry Samson believes he has a multi-generational perspective on issues facing Campbell Riverites.
Born and raised in Campbell River himself, he has a 95-year-old mother and an 86-year-old mother-in-law, siblings and school friends of his own generation, children and grandchildren, all living in Campbell River.
“So I see the different problems. But I also see the positive things each generation from my 95-year-old mother to my nine-year-old granddaughter (enjoy),” Samson said.
That’s one of the things that Samson hopes to bring to the Campbell River mayor’s chair. Samson announced officially on Friday, June 24 that he is seeking the position of mayor in this fall’s municipal election.
“I’m running for mayor because I have a very strong connection and passion for our city,” Samson said. “I was fortunate that I was born and raised in Campbell River, went through all through my school years in Campbell River and served the community for 34 years, to the best of my ability.”
Samson is no stranger to the city council chambers. He served for seven years – two terms – as a city councillor, deciding not to seek re-election in the last election. Prior to serving on council, he was a firefighter in the city for 34 years.
“My belief in this community is so strong, that I feel that I want to come forward and make a difference,” Samson said. “I believe that my seven years on council prepared me for this and it showed that I can work well with other council members in a team environment. We may not always agree on everything but at the end of the day, we always respected each other and our opinions.”
Samson said the last four years being outside of council has allowed him to evaluate how the community is doing.
“It gave me a chance to talk to different people in the community and to connect and also to kind of sit back and see how our community is doing. And we’re going through some difficult times right now coming out of this pandemic,” he said.
Samson said there are two big issues facing Campbell River right now. He grouped them into two categories: public safety and a looming financial crunch.
“Public safety is all encompassing,” Samson said.
The most visible aspect is “what’s happening with our downtown, with our Nunns Creek (Park), with different sections of the city,” Samson said. “How do we go about correcting this and making it so that’s not only public safety but it’s a perception of public safety.”
Samson said people want to feel at ease walking around downtown without the fear of going into certain downtown locations due to the presence of people living on the streets.
Samson said public safety also refers to different things like safe roads and sidewalks. He cited the frequent complaints about snow removal and snow on the sidewalks.
“Is that a public safety issue? Absolutely,” he said.
It also refers to adequate RCMP staffing.
“With the recent incidences of the stabbings and the shootings, I think it’s something that the new council is going to have to address as we move forward,” Samson said.
The second big challenge “sleeping on the horizon” is the financial picture of the city, Samson said.
He expressed concern about council taking money out of reserves to fund the RCMP wage increase.
“You can only take the money out of the reserves so many times when you have to face reality,” he said. “So the city by not adequately funding the budget and taking money out of reserves, we’re going down a path where we’re going to have a shortfall and we have a couple of issues large issues coming up.”
Those issues include the contracts of four major employee groups. CUPE, RCMP, firefighters and management are all going to be looking for wage increases in the next four years. and inflation is running at eight per cent.
“So we’re going to be experiencing some unique, severe financial challenges in the next four years,” Samson said. “And I think once we recognize it and people recognize it, then we can move forward to to address these challenges to set us up for success in the future.”
So those are the challenges looming and Samson said he can relate to how they impact each generation in the community because he has close family in all age groups.
“So it provides me with an opportunity to to look at this, all encompassing, and (watch) each generation, as they work through this time,” Samson said. “But one thing that is common amongst them all is their their passion for Campbell River, their love for Campbell River and how they want to make it work.”
Samson added that he has the support of probably the most important member of his family, his wife Shawn, who has been there there with him all the way and strongly supports his bid for mayor.