After a one-term absence, Starr Winchester is carrying on a long family tradition of public service in seeking another term on the Courtenay City Council
Former Courtenay Mayor Starr Winchester hopes to extend her 21 years of leadership by once again seeking a City Council position.
Winchester has already served two stints on council, the first one for 12 years and the second for three years before losing by just a few votes in the 2014 election. In between her City Council terms, she also served six years as mayor.
“I love local government,” Winchester says. “It’s in my blood; it’s all I’ve know since childhood.”
Winchester’s father, Bill Moore served several terms as mayor of Courtenay in the 1970s, and was the MLA for the North Island in the 1950s and 1960s.
Losing her seat in the 2014 election was a disappointment, but it turned out to be fortuitous. In the last four years, she’s beat breast cancer and mourned the loss of two close friends.
“It became a good time for me to reflect on what I really want to do with my life,” she said.
FURTHER READING: See who’s running for local government this year on our Elections 2018 page
This time around, Winchester is focused on traffic and taxation issues.
She feels the council mishandled the recent hiring of 16 new staff and reclassifying one employee, and she didn’t like to see the staff criticized in public over the issue. It’s the council that makes these decisions, she says.
“How did we get to the point where we needed to hire 17 people all at once,” she said.
The former mayor sees tax savings in combining selected services with Comox and the rural areas, such as planning departments, fire departments and public works.
“It can be done,” Winchester said, pointing to her efforts in the past to form the Regional Playing Field function at the regional district and in creating the Comox Valley Art Gallery.
She counts an improved status for provincial funding among the benefits of consolidating services.
Looking back on her terms as mayor, Winchester cites splitting the Comox and Strathcona Regional Districts into two separate jurisdictions as her “proudest moment” and greatest accomplishment.
“Finally, the Comox Valley could do its own planning,” she said.
On traffic issues, Winchester believes a third crossing of the Courtenay River is inevitable. But the cost will have to be shared regionally, especially with Comox.
In the meantime, she thinks a widening of the 17th Street bridge could relieve traffic congestion to tolerable levels.
She also thinks the city has too many traffic studies.
“We just need to get them all out, review them and make some decisions,” she said.
But she fully supports the Courtenay Airpark and the Kus-kus-sum project, indicating that 21st Street isn’t a good third crossing option because it threatened both.
Winchester thinks the city’s regulations on carriage houses and secondary suites should be relaxed, so people don’t have to apply for a variance to create them. She wants to increase density in the city’s core and make housing more available and affordable.
And to increase government transparency, she would like to see internet streaming of all regional board meetings, including the water and sewer commissions.