Retired councillors open up about stepping away from leadership

It’s the end of an era for three original Sun Peaks council members, who still keep up with council and were recently awarded freedom awards.
Three former councillors and Sun Peaks current mayor stand in front of flags and a beige wall. They smile at the camera and hold awards given to them.
Mario Pozza (left), Ines Popig (middle) and Darcy Alexander (right) stand smile with Mayor Al Raine. Each received a freedom award by the municipality for their service to the community this February during a council meeting. Photo by Julie Kimmel.

Retired Sun Peaks council members say their time as municipality leaders was impactful but that it was time to step away to allow new ideas from new councillors.

Ines Popig, Mario Pozza and Darcy Alexander were three of Sun Peaks Mountain Resort Municipality’s (SPMRM) original council members, and each has been involved in building Sun Peaks since the 1990s. In February, they were the first people in Sun Peaks to be given freedom awards by the municipality, marking them as distinguished residents.

Since they left their roles on council after the 2022 municipal election, SPIN reached out to each former councillor to learn what their time guiding the municipality was like, what they are doing now and how they feel about saying goodbye to positions they held for over a decade.

Ines Popig

Popig said her goal for getting involved in Sun Peaks council was to better the community. She began her official involvement in Sun Peaks in 1999, after Al Raine convinced her to run for Sun Peaks Mountain Resort Improvement District.

“[I had no idea what] an improvement district is or its responsibilities are. Coming from a big city in Ontario, there were no such things as Improvement Districts,” Popig said.

After she was elected as a trustee, Popig soon became the district chair. However, the district didn’t have borrowing authority and Popig said the board of trustees realized becoming a municipality would allow them to finance projects that would improve the community.

Popig worked with Alexander and Raine on a municipal incorporation study committee to engage the province in conversations to have Sun Peaks become a municipality.

After the incorporation study, public consultation and a referendum, SPMRM became a municipality in 2010 and Popig ran for, and was elected to, council.

Popig recalls her time on council as “a lot of fun” and said it allowed her to have a deeper understanding of what was going on in the community.

“It’s good to understand what’s happening, because at least if you don’t like it, people know and you can possibly influence it. If you can’t change it, at least you have tried,” Popig told SPIN.

She hopes to see the current council continue developments for water supply from the reservoir and work with the school district to build a school that has access for youth and the greater community. 

She’s also supportive of ideas the new council has brought forward.

“Some of the changes they [are making] to the temporary use permit and suggesting that the business licence fees be renewed … I personally wouldn’t have come up with [those]. I think it’s great,” she told SPIN.

Popig said her life hasn’t been much different since retiring. She still follows council, but can now take vacations without having to account for meetings.

She decided to step away because she didn’t want the responsibility anymore and wanted to see new faces involved, she said.

The transition has felt “kind of odd, and then you slowly move away from it. Like everything else in your life, that’s something that fits into your past and then you move on,” Popig explained.

Darcy Alexander

Darcy Alexander is the general manager of Sun Peaks Resort (SPR) and described his role as an appointed councillor as “evolutionary” after he came to the area in 1992 with the resort’s ownership group Nippon Cable and served on the improvement district board in the ’90s.

“It was a process of 10 or 12 years before [being appointed councillor],” said Alexander. According to him, the village was “a small collection of buildings” that has since grown into a full-fledged town.

Because he works for Sun Peaks Resort (SPR), Alexander said a special provision was created to waive conflict of interest rules so he could sit on council. But Alexander said he never saw his role as influencing the municipality.

“​​I never saw my role as having to influence council, or to change direction … [my role was] to provide advice and put into context the master plan that our company has with the provincial government,” Alexander said.

He went on to say that while the municipality’s relationship with the resort was “unique,” it helped to unite “the goals of the municipality, the goals of [SPR] and the goals of the residents.”

For Alexander, a highlight of his time on council was working with others. He fondly recalls how initial council members donated their stipends to community initiatives, from the Health Centre to the school.

Alexander said that while he didn’t always agree with everyone, “we always found a way to work together where there was a common outcome, and we could all go forward.”

“That’s really the biggest pleasure I get out of it — looking back on the things that we accomplished and that we did it together.”

For future municipal projects, Alexander said he’s looking at the municipality’s plans for utilities, as the growing community needs infrastructure that grows with it. A permanent school is also on the list for him.

Like Popig, Alexander still keeps up with council meetings, because what happens with the community affects SPR and what SPR does affects the community in return, he said.

While Alexander enjoyed his time as a provincially appointed councillor, he said he served for longer than he initially expected.

“[There] comes a time when you have to change gears and do things a different way. I’ve accepted that at this point in time.”

Mario Pozza

Former councillor and optometrist Mario Pozza became an elected official because he wanted Sun Peaks to reach its full potential. 

“This is the place that I had chosen to live. I wanted it to succeed and I wanted to be part of the community,” said Pozza.

Highlights for him included pushing for a school build and establishing a full-fledged health clinic. 

“If you have a family, you want a school. You’re getting older, you want a health clinic. If you don’t have those things, you don’t really become a community,” Pozza told SPIN.

He’s still on the Health Association Board, and has been since 1998. He was also in the Sun Peaks volunteer fire department since its inception in the ’90s but had to step away once he became a councillor.

Pozza described his time on council as “positive” and said the process was “endearing,” but added it was time to step away as he’s also retired from working as an optometrist.

“It’s nice to have time for myself. It’s time for some new blood, new perspective, new enthusiasm,” Pizza told SPIN.

While Pozza said he misses the inner workings of council, he keeps up with the meeting minutes and is still involved in the community through being a member of the Historical Society, and the Health Association Board and by skiing as much as possible.

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