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Seventeen seeking seven seats around SD79 board table

School District 79: Seventeen running for school trustee in the Cowichan Valley, including current Ladysmith's Rob Hutchins.

Friday’s deadline for local municipal election nominations brought 78 names up for consideration in the coming Nov. 15 vote.

But it was one name in particular that drew the most immediate attention.

After seven terms spanning 21 years, Rob Hutchins will not be Ladysmith mayor. Instead, he is giving up the chains of office to pursue a pair of other roles: a seat on Ladysmith council, and a seat on the Cowichan Valley Board of Education.

“At the beginning of this last term, I had stated to those around me that this was my last term,” he said. “As can be expected, I have struggled with the decision. I love this community so much and know I have more to give, but at some time one must past the torch.

“I have knocked on several doors, more than once, and I was delighted when passionate and able candidates have chosen to let their name stand. I believe I can support our new mayor in their first term and continue to make a contribution to our community as a member of council.”

During the past two decades, Hutchins became one of the valley’s most prominent politicians thanks to multiple terms as Cowichan Valley Regional District board chairman and two failed attempts to become provincial MLA — one representing the NDP, another as a B.C. Liberal.

It’s not clear at this point whether he will continue as a CVRD director. First, he would have to win a seat on Ladysmith council. Then, he would have to be appointed by Ladysmith’s new mayor. Typically, a mayor (Gord Horth, Marsh Stevens and Aaron Stone are the candidates in Ladysmith ) appoints him or herself, but that is not always the case.

Meanwhile, the former Ladysmith-area teacher is not unique in his decision to run for both council and school trustee, a move that is permitted under B.C. legislation. Duncan city councillor Joe Thorne is also making a similar bid this year and Rick Spencer ran unsuccessfully for school board and successfully for Shawnigan Lake director in 2005.

Thorne and Hutchins are two of School District 79's slate of 17 trustee candidates, seeking four-year terms in seven seats Nov. 15. Victoria dropped that number from the previous nine trustee seats in Cowichan.

The district's former school board was fired by the education ministry after submitting a controversial deficit budget to protest per-student funding levels.

Of the 17 candidates for trustee, five are from the fired board; some of the others have previous political experience.

Newcomers include Dana Arthurs, Kayla Barrett, Connie Buckner, Keith Chicquen, Roger Chin, Elizabeth Croft, Joanne de Lure, Randy Doman, and Amy Matamba.

Incumbents, or familiar school-board faces, looking for election include Barb de Groot, Deb Foster, Ellen Oxman, Amrik Prihar, Cathy Schmidt and Candace Spilsbury.

Then-trustees Foster and Oxman voted in favour of the budget that got the board fired. Prihar, Schmidt and Spilsbury were from the minority opposed.

Cowichan's former nine trustees, elected in 2011, were replaced in the summer of 2012 by appointed trustee Mike McKay who has guided the district politically since.


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