Acting editor’s note: This is the fourth candidate profile in advance of the June 19 byelection in Penticton. We’re offering the same opportunity to all candidates. Please email freelancer Keith Lacey directly if you wish to have a profile published. Reach him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
A woman seeking public office for the first time says Penticton city council needs a fresh voice to represent the concerns of this city’s younger population.
Katie O’Kell, 32, has called Penticton home for the past 10 years and has announced her candidacy for the June 19 byelection to fill the seat on council vacated by Jake Kimberley due to health reasons.
“I think Penticton is at a critical moment right now,” said O’Kell.
“The choice we make right now will have major impacts down the road. I want to give a voice to the younger population in Penticton, who I feel aren’t being heard as much as they should.”
After working in a research laboratory in Ontario, O’Kell came to Penticton and started working at a vineyard and eventually became head winemaker at Serendipity Winery.
While the wine industry and tourism will always remain a critical part of this community’s economy, O’Kell said, she wants “more strategic management of our resources. I would love to Penticton to be a four-season town that is less reliant on tourism as an industry. I have a vision for our city and I would love to be part of the positive change that we need.”
One key issue she believes must be addressed immediately is homelessness.
“Many people I know are struggling to pay rent, while others can’t find a place to live at all,” she said.
“We need to dramatically increase our inventory of affordable housing for working families and lower income people. It seems the province is forcing us to take on more than our fair share of supportive housing. I believe it’s only fair that, in turn, we should get more than our fair share of funding for policing, mental health and addiction services.”
Penticton also has a serious issue with increasing crime rates, she added.
“I would love to work with the RCMP to come up with creative solutions,” said O’Kell.
“We now have a catch-and-release system that just isn’t working. Restorative justice, mental health and addiction services and more community outreach are all proven solutions to these problems.”