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Metchosin councillor says skin not thick enough, steps away amid vitriol

Coun. Andy MacKinnon said public criticism stepped up during the pandemic
Councillor Andy MacKinnon was first elected in 2014. Now he’s stepping away he’s set to focus on his research, teaching and writing on all things fungi. (Bailey Moreton/News Staff)

Negativity and vitriol around district decision-making in Metchosin have prompted a district councillor to step away.

Coun. Andy MacKinnon was first elected in 2014 but has opted against running again for this upcoming municipal election in part because of the negativity that has become commonplace on social media.

“Politicians at all levels have become more of a target for criticism from people, there’s a lot of really negative stuff out there on social media. Now, I don’t I certainly don’t mind critical input from the community. Sometimes it’s very well-deserved and always there will be people who don’t agree with our decisions, and I expect we will always hear from them, and rightfully so.

“At the same time, there is a very small minority of people who comment in a very nasty, negative fashion and I honestly haven’t managed to thicken my skin well enough, in my eight years as a councillor. It still really stings when I see some of that stuff daily.”

READ MORE: Relationships strained over Metchosin buffer zone sale

Tensions have arisen between members of council and occasionally members of the public on several issues during this council term, particularly in the last year with issues like potential industrial zoning on Sooke Road and the buffer zone.

Metchosin Mayor John Ranns said he’d also noticed an uptick in negativity impacting councillors and district staff and had heard other mayors in Greater Victoria say the same.

“COVID caused a lot of problems, problems with angry residents and vocal minorities and council issues that in previous times, I would have dealt with more effectively, but I just didn’t have the energy this time,” said Ranns.

MacKinnon said the tension was part of the reason for stepping aside, but he also felt he’d contributed a fair amount during his eight years on council. Highlights during his time included the land swap agreement between Metchosin, Langford and the Scia’new First Nation in 2017, as well as the purchase of the old school building in downtown Metchosin that same year. The work on the Indigenous Protected Area at Mary Hill, which is currently in progress, was another highlight.

“It’s been a very difficult decision for me to decide not to run in the elections this October. I’ve gone back and forth 100 times on it. I know that I will regret not being able to participate in the important decisions that are made around that table. At the same time, I think it will provide a great opportunity for new councillors.”

MacKinnon said now he’ll have more time freed up he plans to focus on his research, teaching and writing about all things fungi.

Meanwhile, chief administrative officer Lisa Urlacher is also stepping away after 13 years at the district, working as the corporate office in 2009 and then being appointed as the chief administrative officer in 2013. Urlacher received a 30-year service award through the Local Government Management Association (LGMA).

“It has been a pleasure working with the staff in Metchosin and definitely the highlight in my 30 years in local government. I will miss them,” Urlacher said in an email.

Sue-Lin Tarnowski has been appointed as the new the interim CAO, after she was recently also appointed the new chief financial officer.

“Lisa knows how to convert vision into reality. So when you’re working with a team of people like that, man, it’s just crazy. That’s what really makes this job interesting and fun,” said Ranns.

Metchosin council is set to undergo a great deal of change. Coun. Sharie Epp is the only current member of council running again for a councillor seat, with Couns. Kyara Kahakauwila and Marie-Terese Little both vying for the mayor seat, meaning there’ll be three new faces on Metchosin’s council after this election.

The 2022 municipal election is scheduled for Oct. 15

READ MORE: Who’s running for council on the West Shore?


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