Dorothy Hartshorne is banking on her experience as a North Saanich municipal councillor and assistant to a provincial MLA to help propel her into the mayor’s seat in the district this fall.
Hartshorne has announced her bid for the position in this November’s civic election on Nov. 15. She takes on incumbent mayor Alice Finall who held onto the job three years ago by acclamation and is in her second term of office.
Hartshorne spent two terms as a councillor in North Saanich from 1999 to 2005.
“I had been on the community’s environmental advisory committee (in 1999) and I was just interested,” she recalls. “(Council) are the people who set policy, set the direction for the municipality.”
Paired with her long-time volunteer work within the community, Hartshorne was elected twice and said she was energized by her work on council.
“The staff at the district were amazing to work with,” she said, adding one of the accomplishments she is most proud of during her time on council was the municipality’s work in helping create the Mary Winspear Centre.
However, in 2005 she and her husband Dan sold their family business and moved to B.C.’s Cariboo region. She said it was a long-term dream of theirs to build a log house on a lake somewhere in the interior. Yet, Dan is a native of the Saanich Peninsula and Dorothy came to North Saanich in 1969 – the area was still in their blood, she said.
“We really missed North Saanich and during a visit back here, I realized that this is home.”
The couple, whose two children are grown, moved back to the community in May and Hartshorne said she was asked almost right away if she would find her way back on council. She added she knew that when she got back to North Saanich, she would run for council again but she said she found people suggesting she run for mayor.
Hartshorne said she will approach the work from a collaborative position.
“I believe in lifting people up, supporting them and making the organization more effective.”
Hartshorne is aware of the animosity between councillors during the last three year term and would like to see that come to an end during her tenure as mayor, if elected. She said that after Nov. 15 she hopes there will be a clean slate – no matter who is elected.
“(If I am mayor) I will work to keep past issues and conflicts between individuals out of the room,” she said.
Asked about the incidents of councillors leaving meetings due to frustration or disagreements, Hartshorne said she knows all about that – having done it herself during her time on council, but only once, she said.
“That will always be up to individual councillors,” she said. “But if they do, they will miss what goes on in the room.”
It has been the debate over housing, affordable and otherwise, that has plagued the council this past term and Hartshorne said there needs to be a full, efficient official community plan review to set the direction for council over the next four years. She added she feels council has gone in the right direction on housing, but they need to move ahead with better policy decisions and not create development zones on an ad-hoc basis.
“We need to step back and look at the whole. Enough has been done at this point. Now we need to ask the community in an OCP review.”
Hartshorne said she doesn’t think she’s pro-or-anti-development, but wants to make a plan for North Saanich in this area.
“It’s a challenge but I feel capable of working with it.”
On the amalgamation issue, Hartshorne said she feels North Saanich should ask its residents about it.
“I’m in favour of finding out what people want – I’m not for it, or against it – it’s just really important to listen to what people want.”
She added her guess is that North Saanich wouldn’t want to pursue amalgamation, but admitted it’s a guess only.
“But do you want a council that guesses, or one that knows?”
Hartshorne, while in the interior, worked as an assistant to MLA Donna Barnett and said she learned the ins and outs of provincial government. She said it’s important a mayor knows who to talk to and how the provincial process works, in order to get the things the community might need.
It’s this combination of skills and experience that Hartshorne is hoping to turn into electoral success on Nov. 15.