Getting to Know Greg - Rossland's New Mayor
Two weeks ago Rosslanders made their voice heard in the municipal election that saw the largest voter turnout in the region. In a close vote that saw a separation of 80 votes between the two mayoral candidates, Greg Granstrom came out ahead.
A long time area resident, Granstrom has made a career working with the Village of Warfield in the public works division for the past 29 years and is looking forward to a retirement set to begin this March. A home-grown Warfielder, Greg was born and raised in the “Jewel or the Kootenays” before moving out to Vancouver Island at eighteen to play hockey. He went on to attend BCIT and spend time living in Montreal and Vancouver working in the marketing field. The lure of the Kootenay life eventually pulled him back to his roots, however, and he returned from the city to live in Rossland in 1980.
“I came back in 1980, and interviewed to be the marketing manager of the ski hill,” said Granstrom. “That didn’t go so good so I ended up in public works shoveling and digging ditches in Warfield and eventually I became the foreman.”
Having served on Rossland Council from 2002 to 2005 including a stint as acting mayor, Greg’s wife was understandably hesitant about re-entering the political world.
“I’m very lucky that I have a family that supports me,” noted Granstrom. “Without that I wouldn’t be able to do it. Before I decided to run this time, my wife said ‘I hope you’re not planning on running for mayor.’ I said ‘Well if only one person runs for Mayor I’m going to run, to give people a choice.’ She said, ‘Go for it,’ so I went for it.”
Returning to the council chambers on December 8th along with the newly elected councilors, Granstrom is eager to get to work. Sitting down with the mayor-elect at Clancy’s this past week I got a chance to ask him his thoughts on some of the issues around town.
What was you reason for running for Mayor this time around?
I don’t know what it is, but I have an urge to serve–and I mean that seriously. I enjoy working with people, I enjoy the interaction, I enjoy the challenge, and with all that interaction and all that challenge there are some really nice rewards. Its hard work and I love it.
What is the biggest issue for yourself and the new council to tackle?
I don’t want to get into too many specifics because it’s more of a whole council thing, but I think the school issue is huge. I think we can build some bridges there and I think we can make it work, I really, really do. Gord Smith and I have a good working relationship and Gord will be a great asset for Rossland as school trustee.
What’s a community without a school? I think this time around the Ministry recognizes that we have to take a different approach to keeping our facilities and certainly if we can find other uses then, yes, we’ll make it work.
Where are you at on environmental issues?
To say that I’m an environmentalist would not really be me. I’m meat and potatoes: I want to be able to eat, I want to be able to sleep and I want to be able to drive on the roads. Do I respect the environment? Yes. I think sometimes, perhaps, our efforts get a little too focused on the environment when maybe we should be focused on our habitat.
What are your thoughts on development in Rossland?
We need slow, steady growth. I’ve said that every time I’ve run for council, and I believe it. You don’t want the big pounding on your infrastructure (from large fast development). We need time to be able to assimilate. Our tax base is mostly residential. We’re not going to attract any major industry here that’s for sure, heavy industry, anyway, but I think mom and pop kind of internet related, high tech stuff, there’s room for that. Infill is important because you’re building without requiring a lot more infrastructure.
Your thoughts on affordable housing?
We have to ensure taxes are affordable; that is where affordable housing starts.
What are your thoughts on improving public transit?
I’m not up to speed on that one. The thing with public transit is if the school board hadn’t come along and worked with public transit then we wouldn’t have it anymore because the ridership was way down and it wasn’t cost effective. It’s like a lot of things: it certainly doesn’t pay its own way. However after saying that, it’s another service that makes a community a community.
There was a lot of talk during the campaign around the use of referendums on big decisions, what are your thoughts on referendums?
I was there when we repealed the referendum bylaw, and the reason we repealed it was because the provincial government said that municipalities can’t negate their authority. When we repealed the referendum bylaw we instituted a new bylaw called public opinion bylaw, if I remember correctly. The referendum bylaw was illegal when it was brought in. I don’t know the year exactly. Back when that referendum bylaw came in there wasn’t too much happening in Rossland. I think it was used a couple of times when the council wanted a raise. In 2005 we had all the development happen. We had to rescind it because it was opening up the city for litigation.
At election time everyone is psyched up, but if we were all this psyched up throughout the entire term there would be no need for referendums because if you were on my back everyday about whatever, of course I’m going to listen to it. I guess that goes back to council getting the word out. People tend to be apathetic and it’s only when there is an issue that affects their back door that they usually get fired up. So the referendums would go the same route, there would be a referendum and no one would care.
What steps would you take to try and keep the population fired up throughout your term?
Throughout the whole campaign we heard the community say communication, communication, communication and I think the Telegraph is a good venue for that and I’d like to see us, the city, take advantage of that.
The way the last council got the word out, I thought was excellent but still people cried for more so when is enough, enough? The citizens have to take a little bit of responsibility as well to get to know the issues. There are a few things we have to clean up like legal notices.
I’ve got some good ideas on communication and I know the rest of council does, we’ve had some good chats and there are some good ideas out there. It’s a function of time and money and staff, and I think we can make all of ourselves available to people. The other side of that is people have to remember that we have lives outside of council too.
What does your Rossland look like in five to ten years?
I would say that on the Emcon lands there will be a kind of a civic multi tasking development. I foresee more senior housing taking place. I know the Royal Canadian Legion has put a group together that is looking at that right now on Washington Street. What I’d like to see is the same kind of atmosphere that we have. That’s probably one of the most important things that we have. Call it lifestyle. That’s what I would never want to see Rossland lose and it’s an intangible; I don’t really know how to explain it. If we go about things the right way, slow and steady, I’m confident that we’ll be able to maintain that because that’s what we are. Even the newer people, that’s what they are. We’re all here for pretty much the same reasons.
What I’d like to see at the end of these three years is people lined up to run for office. What I hope we would accomplish in these next three years would be that we brought respect back to city hall and we brought the idea that you can get in there and work at making changes and have the attitude out there that it is noble work.
What do you think about the council that has been elected this term?
I’m really pumped. We had a little informal get together the other night and sat around and chatted and it was really, really positive. I’m excited about getting to work, and I know the rest of them are too. It’s going to be great.
I’m straight up and an honest guy. I want to build on what we have, and what Rossland has is very important and very valuable.