Langford councillors to see more competition in upcoming election

Langford councillors to see more competition in upcoming election
Nicholas Pescod/CHEK News

Several candidates have put their names forward for Langford council, a far cry from the 2018 election where nine people ran for seven seats.

In 2018, seven people ran for six council seats and two ran for mayor. This time, so far, the pool of candidates is more crowded.

This election in Langford, voters will choose one mayor and six councillors on the ballot. Additionally, Sooke School District trustees in the Belmont Zone will be voted on by Langford voters.

The South Island’s longest-serving mayor, Stew Young, has announced he will once again be seeking re-election in the upcoming municipal election alongside a slate of six council candidates, four of which are incumbent councillors.

Additionally, a group has endorsed five names put forward to run for council.

Outside of the slate and the group, two incumbent councillors have announced they will seek re-election, and one Sooke School District board member will seek a seat on council.

There are two independent candidates running against Young for the mayor’s seat.

In the previous election, Langford had a voter turnout of 18.5 per cent, with only 4,812 people showing up to vote out of an eligible voting population of 26,018.

Community First Langford slate of candidates

Young has been mayor of Langford since shortly after the city was incorporated.

The city was incorporated in 1992, and Young was first elected in 1993 and has served as mayor since. Now he’s announced he will once again be seeking re-election.

“I’m so proud of our community and how far we have come,” Young said in a news release announcing his candidacy. “It is a testament to the hard work we have put in, through the good times and the tough times, such as the pandemic, that Langford continues to grow and prosper.”

Councillors Lanny Seaton, Matt Sahlstrom, Roger Wade, and Norma Stewart are four incumbents running for re-election that will also be running under the slate Community First Langford.

Seaton has served on Langford council since 1996 and is serving as chair of the Parks, Recreation, Culture and Beautification Committee and vice-chair of the Protective Services Standing Committee.

Sahlstrom has served on Langford council since 2002 and he chairs the Administration and Finance Standing Committee and is Langford’s representative to the Greater Victoria Library Board and the Family Court and Youth Justice Committee.

Wade has served as councillor since 2008 and serves as chair of Langford’s Protective Services Committee, chair of the Transportation and Public Works Committee and is vice-chair of the Planning, Zoning and Affordable Housing Committee.

Stewart was first elected in the previous election and serves as the vice-chair of the Transportation and Public Works Committee.

Shirley Ackland and Shannon Russell Willing are also running with the slate.

Ackland moved to Langford in 2020, and previously served as mayor of Port McNeill and was previously a two-term councillor of the same town.

Russell Willing previously served as executive advisor to the premier, and retired from that role in 2021.

Two incumbent councillors seeking re-election as independents

Councillors Lillian Szpak and Denise Blackwell received the most votes with Szpak receiving 3,466 votes and Blackwell 3,369.

Recently, members of the Langford council has been butting heads with mayor and councillors shouting at each other or getting into arguments during council meetings.

Szpak and Blackwell are the two councillors who often butted heads and put forward motions that Young was a vocal opponent of.

Blackwell says she hears from people they would like the rate of development to slow down in Langford.

“What I’m hearing from the public is that we’ve been developing too fast, and what really what really set the mayor and I apart, like he’s not particularly pleased with me right now, is because I’m opposed to throwing up 20 plus storey buildings all over downtown Langford,” Blackwell tells CHEK News in an interview.

“I think we need to plan for that and I think we need to consult the public because they’re telling me they don’t like these big towers.”

She says she sees herself as a middle ground candidate between the slate and the Langford Now group, where she would like to see Langford continue on its current path like the slate would like, but believes that the scope of some of the projects should be scaled back.

Szpak says she has heard from residents that they feel Langford is developing too fast, so she would like to embark on community consultation about what changes they would like in the city.

“Residents that I speak with, they say, ‘I love living in Langford, I like the changes you’ve made to Langford. But you know what, it’s too much now. You’ve grown too fast, and we’re getting too big. And we don’t seem to have a plan, and they’re chopping down all the trees,'” Szpak said.

“I would like to encourage a pause, not a complete halt, but let’s pause, let us consult with the community.”

Szpak previously announced she would not be seeking re-election, but after the announcement she says she received an outpouring of people asking her to run again so she changed her mind.

Both Szpak and Blackwell said they prefer running as independent candidates rather than as part of the slate or the group, because they do not want to feel like they are held to voting alongside those they campaigned with. Both of them say they were not approached by the slate to run alongside them.

Langford Now group endorsing five council candidates

Langford Now says it is not a slate, but it is endorsing candidates it believes supports its vision for the future of the city.

The candidates supported by the group are Colby Harder, Keith Yacucha, Kimberley Guiry, Mark Morley and Mary Wagner.

Harder has lived in Langford her whole life and has a bachelors of science in Geography from UVic. She cites strategic development, accessible infrastructure, restoring natural areas, walkable neighbourhoods, and municipal services are her top priorities.

Yacucha has served in the Canadian Armed Forces, has worked as a tree planter, and fought forest fires. He has an undergraduate degree in economics from UBC Okanagan. His priorities are transparency and engagement, affordability and sustainable growth, financial accountability, and public infrastructure.

Guiry has a degree in environmental science from the University of Guelph and is a Red Seal cabinetmaker. Her priorities are responsible development, community engagement, and transparent governance.

Morley served in the Canadian Armed Forces and has lived in Langford for 13 years. His priorities are a review of impacts of Langford’s growth, measured development, community consultatoin, and a plan for the future.

Wagner has a PhD in biochemistry from UVic and has taught biochemistry at UVic for 15 years. Her priorities include sustainable growth, the environment and greenspace, and making sure decisions are based on community engagement.

Sooke School District board member seeks seat

Wendy Hobbs is also running for election on council, who is wrapping up a term serving on the Sooke school board. She has served on the SD 62 school board for 25 years.

She has served on many community boards including West Shore Parks and Recreation, Langford’s Planning and Zoning and West Shore Chamber of Commerce.

If elected, she hopes to govern with the principals of good governance, develop the municipality strategically, work to preserve the environment, and address housing affordability.

Independent mayoral candidate

Other than the incumbent, Stew Young, one other candidate has put his name forward to run for mayor.

Scott Peter Goodmanson is listed as candidate for mayor.

Goodmanson lives in a Langford property that has been in his family for 90 years, and is running because he has concerns with how the mayor and council has been changing the city in recent years.

If elected, he hopes to create a culture at city hall where residents voices are heard and respected, to advocate for informed and accessible community planning, push for responsible development, and address housing affordability.

The municipal election takes place on Oct. 15. Langford has advance voting opportunities on Oct. 5 and 12.

Laura BroughamLaura Brougham

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