North West River Town Council back to normal

Derek Montague
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Three new councilors chosen in community by-election

The North West River Town Council is relieved to finally have a full slate of elected members again. A by-election, held on July 8, brought in three new councilors, who attended their very first public meeting just one later.

Melanie Blake (left), Darren Dinsmore, and Catherine Russell were elected in North West River’s by-election on July 8.

Melanie Blake, Catherine Russell, and Darren Dinsmore are the three people elected out of the four candidates who ran. The youngest candidate, Timothy Blake, was the odd man out.

Melanie Blake has been attending council meetings for a while out of her own interest. When she saw how depleted the council table was becoming, she figured she’d assist her life-long community by offering her candidacy.

“I’ve been coming to council meetings just as part of the gallery and I’ve noticed that the council members have been dwindling away,” said Blake. “They were coming up with issues where they didn’t have enough council members to make decisions.”

Russell echoed Blake’s sentiments, saying she too wanted to help out the busy and overworked council.

“I’ve been here for about ten years and I love the town and I thought I’d enjoy putting in my time to help out with the issues,” said Russell.

“I know that council has been struggling for a while, so I put my name forward to see what I can do to help.”

Dinsmore is one of the newer residents in North West River. He moved to town in 2013 to be pastor of the Happy Valley Baptist Church, located in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

“I’m new to the area, so I think I might have some new or fresh ideas to contribute to the council,” said Dinsmore

“I think the town has a lot of potential, I’m hoping that we can really take the town up a notch. As far as what we have to offer to Labrador and the rest of Canada, it’s a great community. We’ve got fishing, a beautiful beach, there’s lots of wilderness here. I think there’s great potential for tourism and perhaps some industry in the future.”

A dwindling council

Not long after the municipal elections in the fall of 2013, North West River councilors started resigning from their posts.

After Ruben Pillay resigned in June, the council was down to just four: Mayor Art Williams, Deputy Mayor Kim Mitchell, and councilors Glendene Beals and Marilyn (Biggie) Michelin.

The small crew was just enough for a quorum to make council decisions. But, since it’s summertime and councilors have various work schedules, getting every council member together is not always possible. One meeting in late June had to be cancelled because of this issue.

“We were going to have another meeting two weeks ago and I couldn’t get a full council together,” said Williams on July 9. “And now that summer’s here (it’s going to be harder). Just as an example, in August month, I won’t be here, I’m going on holiday for three weeks.”

The remaining four council members also had to do a lot of extra work in order to fill the vacant committee seats and doing other required duties behind the scenes.

“What it meant was more meetings for us,” said Williams. “The regular duties and the ability of council to do things has been all done. The only thing is, it’s taken a toll on the councilors and myself.”

The Mayor was both surprised and happy to see four people put their names forward for the by-election.  In a small town like North West River, which has a population less than 600, it’s common for candidates to win by default, due to lack of interest.

But having four people run for three seats created an election race, which included some campaigning. Williams hopes this type of involvement will continue in future elections.

“No, we weren’t expecting so many candidates, but we welcome it. It’s really, really, exciting to have a by-election with an actually election.”

The following are the unofficial results of the North West River by-election:

• Melanie Blake — 67 votes

• Catherine Russell — 61 votes

• Darren Dinsmore — 56 votes

• Timothy Blake — 16 votes

Organizations: Town Council, Happy Valley Baptist Church

Geographic location: North West River, Happy Valley, Goose Bay Labrador Canada

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