Brad Sperling is a relative newcomer to the Peace River Regional District board, first elected in November 2014 to represent Electoral Area C. But he’s no stranger to the region, having lived in Charlie Lake for 10 years and Fort St. John for 35 years.
Sperling has worked for the past 35 years as a carpenter, building skills sure to come in handy after being elected chair of the PRRD board late last year.
In 2017, Sperling looks ahead at economic diversification, the health of Charlie Lake, and the importance of citizen health in the upcoming provincial election.
Alaska Highway News: As the new chair of the Peace River Regional District, what are the greatest opportunities and challenges facing the PRRD in 2017, and what momentum from 2016 will you be looking to build upon?
Brad Sperling: Diversify and retain our industries. With the uncertainty of LNG, we need to push for value-added development. Forestry, we need to lobby the province to ensure the allowable cuts stay in this area to support local jobs and business. Agriculture, the one constant for the area when the other industries are down, needs to be protected. As the area grows, more emphasis needs to be put on infilling or utilization of unproductive soil.
AHN: What direction will you be looking to guide the district’s budget deliberations for 2017?
BS: What should be done every year, due diligence. Stop the waste, use it properly for the benefit of the area.
AHN: Electoral Area C withdrew from the North Peace Economic Development Commission in late 2016. What prompted the withdrawal, and what alternative processes/organizations are in place to coordinate development in the area?
BS: As important as economic development is, you need to have proper and basic services for that growth. My focus is to use those services for the people and businesses that are there now so that we can have proper growth in the future.
AHN: Concerns over the health of Charlie Lake took on renewed prominence in the community last year. What actions will you be pushing the PRRD to take to address the concerns, and what direction would you like to see development take surrounding the lake?
BS: Charlie Lake is healthy, maybe too healthy. By working with the conservation society and FLNRO we will find a balance.
AHN: Fort St. John continues to expand its border, while planning for the North Peace Fringe Area OCP continues to be developed. What progress on that OCP can residents look forward to in 2017, and how do you see the needs of Fort St. John being balanced with rural residents living in the fringe areas?
BS: The OCP will be completed in 2017. As for balance between the city and Area C, more emphasis will be put on working together and still retaining our identity.
AHN: With a provincial election approaching, what will you be listening for from candidates on the campaign trail?
BS: Issues that concern the district. Although the economy is always on our minds, I believe the issue surrounding health care in this area is still #1.