Cumberland has a new mayor with deep roots in the village. With a healthy 200+ vote margin, former councillor Vickey Brown ousted incumbent Leslie Baird who was seeking her 4th term as mayor. Baird was first elected to council 32 years ago.
The question is, will sparks fly around the table of this newly minted-village council?
Brown was born in Comox but raised in Vancouver. But her maternal grandparents grew up on Camp Road while her grandfather on the other side was a coalmine fire boss.
Brown’s late father, Harvey Brown, was a Cumberland businessman and politician. He served both as a village councillor and mayor, and also owned and managed the iconic Waverley Hotel for two decades. So when Brown moved back to Cumberland in 1999 after university, her first job was waiting tables for her dad at the Waverley.
Brown brings to the mayor’s job experience in the non-profit sector, where she served as executive director of the Comox Valley Farmers’ Market. She also spent four years as a Cumberland councillor, and did a stint as a School District 71 trustee between.
During her time on the school board between 2014 and 2018, she was involved in a heated debate around closing Ecole Puntledge Park. It was a controversial and, to many, short-sighted effort by the school district to mothball this French immersion elementary school in Courtenay.
But the vote was defeated, the school was saved, and it’s now at capacity.
Last April, Brown was entangled in a Cumberland council kerfuffle. She voted against a zoning amendment allowing a Camp Road homeowner to build a second dwelling on their property, known as an ADU (additional dwelling unit).
Brown and councillor Sean Sullivan, who supported the amendment, locked horns in a heated meeting.
Sullivan and fellow incumbent Jesse Kettler won their seats back and will be joined around the council table by newcomers Neil Borecky and Troy Therrien.
Cumberland is hipster central these days, but it’s facing some serious growing pains.
Housing affordability and an overwhelming reliance on residents for a tax base continue to challenge the community.
The new mayor will need a steady hand to navigate Cumberland’s growth.