Janice Kuester is a busy woman. She juggles her position as a Sechelt Councillor with her family life, a career managing at Custom Flooring Centres, and volunteering with several community initiatives. Kuester has lived in Sechelt since 1996 and finds it has much to offer.
Although she loves her community, she hadn’t considered running for Council for the 2018-2022 term until encouraged by a few local business owners. “They thought I would be a perfect candidate to help move Sechelt forward, so, after a lot of discussion with them, customers, contractors, family and other business owners, I decided to give it a go.”
Kuester had no prior experience in public leadership but says that the skills she has learned in working with a strong, family run company with deep Coast connections, in part, helped her prepare. Mentorship also played a role in equipping her for the task. “I was mentored by Paul Saunders who really allowed me to grow as a person, personally and professionally; he taught me how to have ‘big shoulders’”. Kuester also cites her daughter as an inspiration, who worked on an MP’s Youth Leadership Council for two years and is part of the interact club.
Serving on Sechelt Council has given Kuester more understanding about the hows and whys of council decision-making, whether regarding past or present events. She adds, “I have also come to realize that there are always two sides to a story and somewhere in between the two is the truth. I am used to things moving in a fast and efficient way and I want to make everyone happy but, in politics, this is impossible. No one is right or wrong and everyone believes their ideas are the right ones. People are very passionate about this. I respect this, but in the end, I have to do what I think is best for the community.”
In light of this, Kuester reflects that the Council has not been without some issues and challenges, but she is positive that these will smooth out once resolutions are reached. She enjoys working with the other councillors and staff, specifically noting that her more seasoned colleagues have been very helpful and patient with new councillors like herself.
One of the current initiatives that Kuester is most excited about is the rewriting of zoning bylaws. This will enable more clarification and the ability to move processes along faster and more efficiently, especially for the more vulnerable. “I am looking forward to getting the groundwork started and moving forward with affordable housing units and seniors’ housing and care. We need all types of housing and care. These are so important in our community right now,” she explains.
When asked what her most rewarding experience on Council has been so far, Kuester says it is not one particular event but, rather, positive interactions with community members. “I guess what feels the best is when a member of the community stops and tells me that I am doing a good job and they appreciate what I am doing. There is so much negativity surrounding Council and [our] decisions so a positive comment is definitely
Kuester’s days are undoubtedly full, and, yes, sometimes, her family has to eat cereal for dinner, but they are very supportive. Her advice to other women who are thinking of entering into public service or politics? “If it is something that you have thought about or, even maybe not, just go for it. In the end, you will have gained valuable knowledge and grown personally. You have the opportunity to meet amazing and passionate people and that is what is most rewarding.”