And then there were two.
Rebecca Mersereau announced last week that she’ll join the upcoming Saanich council municipal byelection, likely to take place in September. The seat on council became available following the death of Coun. Vic Derman in March.
Mersereau was a protege of Derman’s and nearly joined Saanich council in 2014, finishing ninth in voting (12,077), 30 votes back of eighth place Coun. Leif Wergeland (12,107). Farmer Nathalie Chambers of the Blenkinsop Valley’s Madrona Farm is the only other candidate to announce their intention to challenge for the seat so far.
“My sense is there’s an urgent need in Saanich at the moment for leadership and strategic vision,” Mersereau said. “Without that we’re possibly dropping the ball on some major issues. We have a lot of concerns around affordability for both young families and older folks on fixed income.”
Mersereau is a Gorge-Tillicum resident who works in water resource management consultancy with Econics out of Fort Tectoria and also chairs the CRD water advisory committee. In 2014, Mersereau surprised many when her small-budget campaign nearly succeeded in winning her a Saanich council seat.
With little signage (which is a big factor in Saanich municipal elections), little to no name recognition and a small presence in general, Mersereau learned she had the highest votes-to-dollars-spent ratio of the election.
“I was shocked and obviously thrilled,” Mersereau recalled. “Derman helped me during that campaign quite a bit and it was really a surprise between he and I when I nearly won a seat. I wasn’t anticipating that result given the budget, it was fairly modest compared to others.”
It was on the momentum of the 2014 election results that Mersereau was already leaning heavily towards running in 2018. While campaigning for the vacant seat, Mersereau will put aside her focus on the University of Victoria masters degree in public administration she is currently enrolled in.
Lauraine Derman, Vic’s widow, is supportive of Mersereau’s candidacy.
“Vic saw a lot of potential in [Mersereau] and believed she would be a principled and thoughtful addition to council,” Lauraine said. “He really wanted to see her succeed in the next election after she impressed many people in the 2014 campaign. We’re thrilled she’s stepped forward to try to carry on his legacy.”
In terms of a platform, Mersereau would like to tackle issues of traffic and planned places, and spaces, within Saanich.
“We need to turn our mind towards complete communities so that we have a lot of amenities around community centres in Saanich. We [want places] people can walk to and gather in, and foster a better sense of community.”