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FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — Byron Stewart first ran for Fort St. John’s city council in 2011 out of a great love for the community— and that’s still why he wants to keep the role he’s held for 11 years, he says.

But, Stewart says, it is also because he does not consider his job finished yet.

“There is no denying that 2020 and 2021 were hard on myself, hard on my family, my friends, and the residents of our community. And things are just not complete,” the candidate says. “I want to continue the conversations that we are now back in and engaged in face to face.”

These conversations, though political, are not those that embroiled large portions of politics over the last few years, he explains. Instead, Stewart says, they are about a city’s next steps. 

“[These conversations are about] making plans of what we want for the future of our community and not just entangled with some of the polarized views that we were forced to face and were challenged by over the last couple of years,” he said.

“I think there’s a time now for a new energy to get back out there and ask, ‘what do we want as a community and how can we get there?’”

Stewart, over the course of his time on council, has seen that question asked and answered in different ways as priorities shifted through the years. 

Many of the projects he is most proud of are products of those questions. He remembered attending the opening of the new hospital as his first event as a city councillor and, since then, has seen a new fire hall, new schools, and new parks open. Stewart is proud of council’s achievements on such projects, and excited to see new similar projects—like refurbishing older parks—come to fruition. 

One of the questions, however, that seems to have been asked consistently since Stewart’s start on council in 2011 is about healthcare in Northeastern B.C. 

Though it is a continuing conversation, Stewart—a recruitment and retention ambassador for the northeast with Northern Health— notes that large moves have been made in the effort to keep healthcare professionals in the community, like the new nursing program in Fort St. John.

Stewart describes his role as a recruitment and retention coordinator as one that encourages youth to see futures in healthcare in the north and one that seeks to ensure new healthcare professionals settle into and feel welcome in the area, he said.

While policies that seek to help retain and recruit healthcare professionals on the level of local government crop up in nearby municipalities, Stewart says, his work in the area is not something that has largely affected his voice on council. 

Should that arise in the future with a new council, Stewart says he would “welcome the discussion.”

Stewart’s involvement in the community has not been limited to city council. He has also been a part of various not-for-profit boards and an active member of sports, arts, and entertainment aspects of the community, he said. 

The local general election, in which residents of Fort St. John will select six councillors and one mayor, will happen on October 15th, 2022. There are ten candidates for council and three for mayor. 

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Grace Giesbrecht

Grace Giesbrecht is a news reporter for who recently graduated from Trinity Western University with a bachelor of arts in Media + Communications. She was born and raised just outside of Fort St. John. She began reporting for her university’s student newspaper and interned with Ottawa Life Magazine where she developed a passion for asking questions, telling stories, and the written word. In her free time, you can find her drinking coffee, snowboarding, or reading novels.