Learn more about Earl Rook who is running as a candidate for Commissioner, in the 2023 Local Community Commission Election.
The 2023 Salt Spring Island Local Community Commission Election is scheduled for Saturday, May 27, 2023. The Capital Regional District will be conducting voting to elect four commissioners to the Local Community Commission (LCC). Learn more about what the LCC is and how it works.
About Earl Rook
Before retiring to Salt Spring in 2015, I spent 25 years in St. Paul with the Minnesota Department of Health, working in finance, administration, and facilities management. Prior to that I worked in the private sector as a manager and comptroller. I hold a BA in music and a master’s degree in management. This is my first time seeking elective office.
I grew up in Montana, moving frequently as my father worked his way up from building highway bridges to power plants and hydro dams. For my high school years, we lived in Libby, a small town about the size of Salt Spring near the BC border. There I developed an enduring love of wilderness and of music.
While living in St. Paul, I served on the board of the local community newspaper, taught community education classes in plumbing and electrical codes to homeowners, and volunteered as a university-certified Master Gardener and Tree Care Advisor. I spent nearly two decades as bass trombonist with the St. Paul East Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra. A summer tradition was an annual canoe trip to the Boundary Waters Wilderness Area on the Minnesota-Ontario border.
Since moving to Salt Spring, I have continued my involvement in music and in community organizations. I am Treasurer of the Bandemonium Music Society which supports the Bandemonium Concert Band and Swing Shift Big Band. I am Treasurer of the Island Wildlife Natural Care Centre and President of the Salt Spring Island Garden Club. I am POD leader of our neighbourhood POD and serve on the Salt Spring Emergency Management POD planning group. I coordinate the annual Christmas Bird Count for our North End zone. I play bass trombone with Concert Band and Swing Shift. As a new Canadian, I’ve been honoured to play in the brass group at Remembrance Day ceremonies every year.
What brought you to the island?
I met my Canadian partner while we were both living in Minnesota. She asked me if I had ever heard of Salt Spring Island. I had not, but it turned out that she had visited the island often over the years and hoped to retire there. We made our first visit together in 2010. We took in Canada Day fireworks in Ganges and, by the end of the week, asked a local real estate agent to take us around and show us some houses.
What one thing about the island would you tell someone who has never visited?
You come for the natural beauty, but you stay for the people. The islands of the Salish Sea are each a gem in their own way, but Salt Spring also has vibrant, year-round culture, rich in the arts. The word I most often hear from visitors and new residents alike is “remarkable”. The people of this island are indeed remarkable, in their accomplishments, their talents, their depth of purpose, and their compassion.
If you could change one thing about Salt Spring, what would you change?
I would undo the cumulative effects of hundreds of decisions, large and small, on land use, water use, and housing development made over past decades. The unforeseen consequences of these choices now form significant barriers to solving some of our most pressing problems. Our housing mix is out of sync with our community’s housing needs. Access to drinking water is increasingly precarious.
What do you think is the most important community issue on the island right now?
The most pressing short-term issue for Salt Spring is affordable housing, exacerbated by the impacts of climate change on our water supply, market forces distorting our housing availability, and divided government lacking effective coordination and collaboration. The initial mandate of the Local Community Commission does not include the authority for housing, water, or most environmental matters. However, as the largest elected body representing the community the LCC is uniquely positioned to bring the relevant parties together and push for effective change. The commissioners will need to engage from the outset in pushing the intergovernmental coordination needed to address our most pressing problems.
What is your favourite spot/place to visit on Salt Spring Island?
I relish the serenity of the deep, moss-drenched forest, especially where there is a view to the sea. The trails at Ruckle Park are a favourite. But, as a musician, give me a place with live music, where the groove is tight, the crowd is energized and smiling, and where I get to play. It could be Fulford, Moby’s, or a friend’s barn. Music is a big part of our vibrant arts community.
Which elected position are you seeking?
Commissioner, Salt Spring Island Local Community Commission (LCC)
Why should Salt Springers vote for you?
I am committed to the success of the LCC. That is my highest priority. I am not running to push a particular viewpoint, agenda, or issue. My role would be to act in the best interests of the island and its residents as a whole. I support the principles of good government – competence, transparency, accountability, collaboration, and accessibility. I also recognize the magnitude of the job ahead. Even the limited initial mandate of the LCC will require an extensive time commitment and I am prepared to dedicate the time needed.
I believe my work background has prepared me well to serve as an LCC commissioner. I have 25 years experience in government finance and administration – budgeting, policy development, facilities planning, and project management. I have worked extensively with both operating and capital budgets in a government setting and had primary responsibility for an annual facilities budget in excess of $10,000,000. I have managed government facilities projects from conception to completion, including initial needs assessment, preparing and supporting funding requests to the legislature, budgeting, predesign, design, site selection, construction, and move-in. Projects have ranged in scale from rural field offices for 20 staff to a multi-agency office building of over 300,000 usable square feet spanning two city blocks to a height of six storeys (with a budget over $100,000,000).
How do you plan to engage the community in your work?
The meetings of the commission need to as open as possible, scheduled at times where they are accessible to a broad cross section of our community, especially those who work during the day. Commissioners need to make themselves available for public forums where they can hear directly from their constituents. I also intend to reach out to specific communities or stakeholders when an issue directly affecting them is before the commission.
Is there a really good interview question we should have asked you?
Why should Salt Springers take interest in, and vote in, this election?
How would you have answered your question?
Voter turnout for local elections is often low on Salt Spring, but, if ever there was a compelling reason to turn out for a special election on a sunny spring day this is it! The LCC is the only tool at our disposal for expanded control over, and input into, our local government. Because the LCC is new, the four commissioners elected on May 27 will have a major role in shaping how the commission functions going forward. We need commissioners who are committed to making the LCC work for our community.