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Elkford mayor announces retirement

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Elkford’s mayor will not seek re-election after serving in the position for nearly two decades.

Mayor Dean McKerracher said he feels ready for some time off after 17 years in office.

“I think it’s time to retire. I’ll be 78 in a couple of weeks,” said McKerracher. “It’s time to step aside with the successes we’ve had and let someone else younger come in and take charge and continue to grow the community.”

McKerracher said he feels good about leaving the community in the hands of Elkford’s district staff.

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According to McKerracher, one of the things he is proud of during his term was the increased cooperation between Elk Valley municipalities.

“Before I was mayor, the mayors in the valley never worked together and often fought against each other,” explained McKerracher. “Since then, we’ve all got along great and we have worked towards having the valley coordinate with each other and it’s been very successful.”

Speaking of Elkford itself, the mayor pointed out several notable projects that have happened in the community during his term. This includes a new conference centre about 10 years ago, a new district office three years ago, recent additions such as a new gazebo and adoption of the downtown master plan, and upcoming projects, such as a bike park, tennis court, daycare centre and ongoing trail building.

During McKerracher’s term, the nearby mine changed to a four-on-four-off shift pattern, which drastically changed the makeup of the community as workers no longer had to live in Elkford to have a job at the mine.

“We developed our water and sewer treatment plant to manage 7,000 people because that’s what the Fording coal mine told us we needed,” said McKerracher. “The infrastructure is all in, there’s new development all uptown and there are about 100 lots that are empty and we’ve been trying to fill up, and some people have been buying those up.”

According to the 2021 census, Elkford has a population of just over 2,700

McKerracher said this presents a challenge, as mine workers who live outside of Elkford do not pay municipal taxes or, in some cases, shop within the community.

“It’s a bit of a kicker for business in the community, but it’s been like that since day one,” said McKerracher. “I would like to see more development in the community, I’d like to see more businesses come in.”

“As one of our councillors said recently, I’d like to be able to buy a pair of socks and a pair of underwear in town,” quipped McKerracher. “There have been many, many stores that have tried and failed, but I don’t know what the answer is.”

McKerracher has also retired from the Kootenay East Regional Hospital District after serving as the board chair for seven years.

More: Sparwood mayor takes helm of regional hospital district (Mar 4, 2022)

Elkford’s long-time mayor said he will spend time during his retirement with his family.

“I think I’ll take a couple of months and enjoy time with my great-grandchildren. I have two little girls here in town, and I’ll probably help out babysit a little bit more than we do right now,” said McKerracher. “I love them, they’re great kids, they’re two and four years old so they’re lots of fun.”

McKerracher said he will continue to live in Elkford, where his oldest daughter,  granddaughter, and great-grandchildren also live. His youngest grandchild will play volleyball at the College of the Rockies in the upcoming season.

“My two older girls said to step out while we’re successful and it’s time to move on,” said McKerracher. “I’ll still be here to help out council and staff, if they want”

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