KELOWNA - Shelley Cook carries a photo of her mother in the front sleeve of her binder.
“She motivates me," she says. "When I need grounding, I just look to her.”
Although she was approached to run before the last provincial election in 2013, it was after her mother’s passing in 2014 when Cook says she really thought seriously about politics.
“She had all these plans for the things she wanted and was waiting for the right time,” says a teary-eyed Cook. “I’ve really learned not to wait, if you can, you have to jump in, in life and take chances and risks.”
This might be Cook’s first step into the political sphere, however she is no stranger to the public eye. Being the executive director of the John Howard Society in Kelowna for 11 years helped to prepare her for a political career, she says.
“First and foremost I think about the needs and issues of the people I’ve worked with for over twenty years,” she said. “I feel a really strong sense of responsibility to stand up and do a good job.”
However it was her work with young federal offenders that Cook says prepared her the most.
“Working with youth is a gift, but it will test you,” said Cook. “It definitely kept me on my toes.”
Cook says two areas that need the most focus are homelessness and the opioid crisis and agrees with the NDPs platform for dealing with those issues.
“We need to actually look at issues from a harm reduction approach, we need to be working proactively and not as a reaction,” says Cook. “Things will not get better until we start addressing them from that perspective.”
Cook says safe injection sites are needed in the area, and although there has been significant pushback from the community, it’s a pillar that needs enforcing.
Currently, Cook is doing her PhD candidacy at UBCO in interdisciplinary studies and urban geography, with focus around issues of homelessness.
She completed both her undergraduate degree in psychology and her masters degree in multi disciplinary studies, focusing on child and youth care at the University of Victoria.
Aside from living in Victoria, and spending some time in Ontario, Cook has spent the majority of her life in Kelowna.
She describes herself as a type A extrovert and loves to stay active.
“We’re so lucky in the Okanagan, whether it’s in the mountains or on the lake, there’s endless things to do,” she says. “Knox Mountain is like my church, it’s what heals me.”
If elected, Cook says people know what they will get.
“I would come at this with the same zest and zeal as I do with everything in my life,” said Cook. “I won’t compromise my integrity.”
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