Born and raised in Lillooet, Jennifer Leach has worked at Buy-Low Foods, the Lillooet News and Remax Lillooet Realty. This is her first run for elected office.
Why she’s running now:
I’ve always been interested in Lillooet and the betterment of Lillooet. Being at the real estate office, seeing behind the scenes and seeing the 2011 bylaw – I could probably recite it – definitely piqued my interest. It felt like (realtor) Mark Rawson and I were facing a wall and they didn’t take into account what we were saying, which led to difficulty selling property in the community. That’s where it started. I know the current
council is big on planning and development for the future and I think my perspective from working in real estate can add to the discussion.
What do you like about Lillooet?
I can raise my children here. Knowing that as my kids get older, I will know where they are, just as my parents did when I was growing up. There’s a feeling of safety here. Lillooet offers a lot to children; I’m seeing more and more opportunities for our kids, both younger kids and adolescents.
On running as a young, first-time candidate:
People think that we (Jamie Longhurst-Howe) and I are naïve, that we’re young and vulnerable, except the flip side to that is we can study, we can do our homework, and we’ve been doing that.
With some of the people who are running, because they’ve been so emotionally invested in some of the more heated discussions, if they were to be elected, I feel like their minds are already made up when it comes to discussion. As a council, it is our job to have a discussion, to have public input on where our taxpayers want to see our community going and not be just a special interest group.
That being said, I know I’m going to be asked these hot topic questions, for example the water issue. I grew up in North Lillooet, drank from Dickey Creek, I understand what my neighbours are concerned about. I now currently live in town and I also understand how those neighbours feel.
I think one of my strong points is being able to see both sides and be level-headed when it comes to emotion, to try and bridge the gap between the sides. If not, at least we can have an actual discussion instead of arguing, because if we’re going into the council with high blood pressure to begin with, it’s not going to be a good four years.
Some people are saying it’s good to have young candidates with fresh new ideas, others say I don’t know the history, but don’t forget, I’ve grown up here, I’ve lived through this turmoil with the last two, perhaps three, councils, I’ve seen it, I’ve read it, I’ve lived through it. I’ve lived in this community when basically there was no work – I’ve seen the ‘great cloud over Lillooet.’ But because I’ve been in real estate, I’ve seen the great cloud lift.
On welcoming newcomers:
The people moving here are contributing to this community. We talk about how bright and happy Lillooet seems now – those people are a part of it. We need to recognize that and tell them they’re welcome. Eighty per cent of our buyers are people with young families. They have kids, they’ve repopulated our schools.
I want to be able to come in and work as a team. I don’t think the bickering at the last (Sept. 17) council meeting and the way certain people conducted themselves was right. Healthy debate is phenomenal. We are professionals, we are taxpayers and this is not a personal decision we’re making. We’re not influencing just our households – we’ve got an entire tax base to remember.
Another priority is obviously listening more – Jamie and I sat out at the mall for six hours in the cold and every single person who came up to us, the common thing people were saying is they don’t feel they’re being heard. That’s something we need to work on.
I know people want me to pick sides, but I’m not going to pick a side. I can go through past documents, I can take into account what people are saying, social media, what people are calling me about and basically put it into my head and data file it and try to spit out something that works. I know there are other topics – housing is one – but I’m not going to say I have all the solutions or make promises.
People should vote for me because…
I have a passion for service, I have a passion for Lillooet. I’m invested in this community. We have a couple of properties and we have a couple of kids. As a taxpayer, I want to be OK with what is going on. I think a lot of people feel that way and I want to bring some reassurance that Lillooet is still as amazing as it always has been