By Lyonel Doherty
It looks like Mayor Ron Hovanes has a keen challenger in next month’s municipal election in Oliver.
Mayoral hopeful Martin Johansen has tossed his hat into the ring, saying that change at the helm is not only necessary but healthy.
“What I’m hearing from citizens is they’re unhappy and are expressing a need for change,” he said
The senior management professional noted that the same leadership, term after term, is counterproductive, so change at the top is critical to continuous improvement.
Johansen said bringing different skill sets and new ideas to the table will take the Town of Oliver to the next level in effective governance.
“I have a solid understanding of the challenges facing communities today and I know how to get things done in a complex, regulatory world.”
Johansen has worked for the City of Kelowna for the past 20 years and is currently in a senior management position providing leadership and direction to a diverse group of staff charged with optimizing the life and utility of all civic, recreational and leased buildings. His responsibilities include capital renewal planning, energy management, project management, private security services, building security and budgeting.
Johansen and his family have lived in the Okanagan for nearly 40 years and have chosen Oliver as a place to retire.
“Our family has deep roots in the community, a community where I’m already an active volunteer.”
This year he will provide leadership as head coach for the South Okanagan Bantam hockey team.
Johansen believes running for mayor is a natural fit with his leadership skills and extensive experience in municipal government.
His resume also includes experience working with private security providers, a 300-plus closed-circuit television network, and participating in Kelowna’s Coordinated Enforcement Committee. He feels this will be extremely valuable helping to address the complex issue of public safety in Oliver.
This is one of Johansen’s top four priorities as mayor.
“We need to be proactive with strategies to keep citizens safe from personal and property crime.”
Johansen said the Town needs to establish a coordinated enforcement committee comprised of stakeholders in the community (RCMP, Osoyoos Indian Band, Interior Health, private security providers, Oliver Parks & Recreation Society, citizens patrol, etc.)
He added that technology (CCTV) is also part of the solution.
Another key component of public safety, he said, is being adaptable and resilient through unprecedented flooding and regional fire emergencies.
Another priority is maintaining a healthy, active community, he pointed out.
“We need to help foster connections with neighbours, nature and our town by promoting an active lifestyle.”
Johansen suggests a neighbourhood grant program to support resident-led neighbourhood enhancement ideas (community garden, beautification, clean-up, block party, etc.).
His third priority is strong financial management.
He noted that council has the responsibility of being a good steward of public money.
He suggests proactive development of capital projects to better position the Town to be successful with grant funding opportunities.
“My objective is to promote a mindset of continuous improvement for the Town which questions the value of each of our services and programs, and when something is identified as being low value, take action to improve, make more efficient or perhaps eliminate the service.”
Johansen’s fourth priority is making sure Oliver is open for business.
“We can work to ensuring a strong economy that is open for opportunity and open for business by fostering an environment conducive to business development.”
He wants to actively promote sport tourism and review business licence fees, in addition to making sure that development in Oliver is not complicated. On top of all that, he wants to find ways to provide incentives to encourage the growth of existing businesses.
When asked why he wants to be mayor, Johansen said he has the experience to do the job.
“I want to make sure the challenges of today and tomorrow are being managed and planned for effectively.”