He's a young chief who's about to lead his First Nation on the road to big changes.
Bryce Williams is only 23, but last week the soft-spoken carver and lifelong resident of the Tsawwassen First Nation pulled off an incredible upset when he defeated longtime incumbent Kim Baird in the race for chief in his government's election.
"I thought I can be the right man for the job. I thought I could handle the work and be that leader to bring back that culture and make sure we always have it," the chief-elect told the Optimist in an interview at his First Nation's offices.
The election of Williams surprised many people that don't call the TFN home as Baird had become a well recognized face for her community.
Unchallenged in the previous election, the 42-year-old Baird, who was first elected chief in 1999, helped negotiate B.C.'s historic first urban treaty. She was also was at the helm for the creation of new community plan and major development announcements.
Saying the vision and mandate of the new government will focus on continuing with those economic development projects, along with initiatives to improve the health and wellness of the community, Williams noted his victory was due in part to the mood of the community looking for something different.
"They know that I'll be a strong leader in many aspects, especially in culture. I've lived here all my life and I respect all the people down here and they respect me," he said.
He said an issue people talked to him about was the need for the TFN to maintain its cultural identity.
"I've talked to a lot of people on a daily basis. I think I'd be a strong, true voice for the people and what they really want," he said.
He added another issue was a sense there needed to be better dialogue between government and residents.
Earlier this summer, a groundbreaking ceremony was held to mark the beginning of a housing development called Tsawwassen Shores. TFN members partnered with Aquilini Development to begin the first phase of what could eventually be several hundred new homes.
The neighbourhood plan has about 4,000 new residents coming over the next decade as 1,684 housing units are to be built.
TFN members also voted in favour of a deal between the TFN Economic Development Corporation, Ivanhoe Cambridge and Property Development Group to develop almost 1.8 million square feet of shopping, office and entertainment space on 180 acres at Highway 17 at 52nd Street. The mega malls are scheduled to open by 2015.
On another front, the TFN government is also looking to build a waste-toenergy plant on an industrial section of the First Nation's land that already has the necessary zoning. That project, which is going through a Metro Vancouver selection process, would involve another partnership with an Aquilini company.
The First Nation has already begun developing some of its other industrial land, while also working with Port Metro Vancouver to see how to develop the remaining properties.
The First Nation has also been mentioned as a possible location for a future foreign trade zone. If they all come to fruition, these projects represent major changes, not just for South Delta, but the entire Lower Mainland.
However, things appear to have slowed for now due to the unresolved issue of the TFN not having enough sewer capacity.
Williams said he believes the TFN and Delta will have a positive relationship, and as such the sewer capacity issue can be worked out.
He was a member of the executive council in the previous government. Williams had clearly established himself as a popular member within the Tsawwassen community, since that council is comprised of the four legislative candidates that garner the most votes.
"I'd like to thank family and friends and the community for all their support, and thanks to Kim (Baird) for her hard work for the last 13 years," Williams said.
Baird, who received a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal at a ceremony in Richmond last Friday, told the Optimist she was somewhat surprised by the result, however, she said she has always been prepared for anything to happen in an election.
The turnout had just 57 per cent of eligible voters cast ballots, prompting Baird to wonder why more didn't come out to vote.
Saying she's already had a number of job offers, she noted that for now she'd like to assist Williams in any way in the new government's transition.
The legislature will also have some new faces.
The new chief, legislators and executive council will be sworn in Sept. 22.
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