She’s 24. She topped the polls in Rossland

Maya Provencal has been elected to Rossland city council at age 24. (Photo submitted)

At 24, Maya Provencal might be the youngest person ever elected to Rossland city council. Not only that, the 1,129 votes she received were the most of any candidate in the race and 150 more than the runner-up. Provencal is one of only a handful of people who have ever been elected in West Kootenay under the age of 25, although she is not sure if she was the youngest woman elected in BC on Saturday.

She works for Neighbours United (formerly the West Kootenay EcoSociety), for whom she has led climate campaigns, encouraging local governments in West Kootenay to transition to renewable energy sources. She is also a masters student. We caught up with her on Monday by phone.

What did you think when you saw the results?
I was shocked and excited and happy and tired, also. Just overwhelmed with the support I’ve gotten from the community over the last few weeks.

What led you to you to run in the first place?
I’ve always had an interest in government and governance and have talked about running for a city council since I was a teenager, which is weird. That’s not usually what teenagers think about. A couple of people close to me who are mentors encouraged me to run. I thought it was a good time, so I did.

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Your work with Neighbours United exposed you to local government?
Definitely. I interned with them when I was still doing my undergrad in political science in 2018. So I have been in the world of government since my late teens.

What was your experience like campaigning?
It was great. I met so many amazing people. I made friends with a lot of the other candidates, some of whom were elected and others who weren’t. I feel like I got to know the community a lot better. Even though I’ve been here my whole life, you learn a lot going door to door and talking to people. It was a great experience and I would do it all over again, regardless of the outcome.

What did people make of your youth?
I didn’t know what to expect. I wasn’t sure if people weren’t going to make seriously, but honestly, everyone I spoke to was incredibly supportive and thanked me for putting my name forward and were just excited by the possibility of having youth representation on council. It was so overwhelming and heartwarming and encouraging. I hope more people run because they saw my success.

You will also be part of a council that will be younger overall than the last one.
I think the majority of us are still working age, which is pretty unique for rural city councils. Usually it’s folks who are close to retirement or retired.

Was that coincidental, or is there a reason more younger people ran this time?
I think it was partially coincidental and partially the product of some folks in the community asking their friends to run. All of us who put our names forward who were younger were encouraged by others because they wanted to see younger people on council.

Now that you’ve won, what are your priorities?
We’re a predominantly new council, so I think the first few meetings will be a steep learning curve. I imagine most of us will be focused on getting to know the rules and each other and figuring out how we work together as a team.

In Rossland specifically, people are very concerned about affordable housing and seniors housing. This coming year I would love to work with my fellow councillors to figure out a plan for getting more affordable seniors housing. I would also like to open up some avenues for youth to get involved in local government. I would like to see some sort of youth council or youth project associated with the City of Rossland.

But first things first is learning how to do the job right.

Anything you’d like to add?
Anyone in Rossland can feel free to reach out to me. I want to continue the conversations I had while I was campaigning.