December will be a time of renewal in Oak Bay this year, as a new mayor and three new councillors get set to take their seats at municipal hall.
Mayor-elect Nils Jensen, who spent the previous five terms as a councillor, will spend some time adjusting to his new role, which officially begins Monday. But he has the advantage of already being intimately familiar with how Oak Bay council operates, and the people behind the scenes who keep things running smoothly.
But for the three fresh faces; Cairine Green, Michelle Kirby and Kevin Murdoch, there’s a lot more information to absorb.
“There’s definitely going to be a learning curve for me, but it’s an extension of what I’ve been doing already,” said Kirby, who was heavily involved with the Community Association of Oak Bay prior to being elected. “I’m obviously going to learn something along the way – a ton, probably – but it’s just maybe a little bit more formal process.”
Kirby has already pinpointed some key issues she hopes to start working on in short order.
“I’d like to play a big role in the redevelopment of Oak Bay High because I have been working on that for the past two years,” she said. “The other thing is ensuring that we take every opportunity to implement the pedestrian and cycling master plan. The third thing, right off the bat, (is) that we see change in how council does business.”
This is also the first foray into politics for Murdoch, who is eager to get to work with his new colleagues.
“I’m really looking forward to it. We have six really different people – seven with Nils – with really different backgrounds, really different ages, really different experience,” he said.
“Democracy as a big idea works best if you have (people with diverse backgrounds). The only way to have good debate is if you actually disagree on stuff and you can argue about it. On top of that, there’s a layer of respect that’s been shown at every stage so far. It could be a really, really amazingly strong council.”
Given his background as an IT consultant, Murdoch expects to spend some time in the immediate future working to make municipal communications more user-friendly, a topic that arose frequently during the election campaign.
“It looks like I’ll be pretty heavily involved with the modernization of communications,” he said. “Just from my background, that probably makes sense that I’ll end up doing that.”
Unlike her fellow newcomers, Green has previous political experience as a two-term councillor in North Saanich. Despite recently relocating from that municipality, Oak Bay is not entirely unfamiliar territory to Green, who lived here prior to 1987.
“I love the old homes, I love the streetscapes. I think heritage is a huge part of why Oak Bay is so attractive,” she said.
Communication is a key issue for Green, who keeps a blog, oakbay.cairinegreen.ca, which she plans to update regularly with information about the happenings at municipal hall and in the community.
“I got the blog going about four years ago to fill a gap in the community of North Saanich, and I’ve continued ever since,” she said. “I’ve made the same commitment to Oak Bay … I still think if you don’t communicate, it will come back to bite you.”
The trio, along with incumbents Pam Copley, John Herbert and Tara Ney, plus mayor-elect Jensen, will be formally sworn in at their first meeting at 7:30 p.m. Monday.