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Outgoing Penticton city councillor reflects on 14-year tenure

Councillor Judy Sentes
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/City of Penticton

Penticton’s longest-serving city councillor has decided to hang up her hat.

Judy Sentes announced she will not be seeking re-election after serving 14 years.

Being committed to public office meant having to constantly sacrifice time with her loved ones, and she would attend as many as 10 meetings some weeks.

“My family was generously inviting me to join them and I always had to look at my calendar to see what was available,” Sentes said.

She’s decided now is the right time to step away.

“My oldest grandson is turning 27 for heaven's sake,” she said.

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Asked what advice she would give herself back in 2008 when she started, she wishes she had learned the ropes better prior to getting elected.

“I entered with all good intentions, no question, but even I at that time was not as well prepared to be a councillor as what I should’ve and could have been.”

There is an intense amount of learning in the first year, she said, and the city now hosts workshops to help aspiring councillors prepare for the role, but those were not offered back in 2008.

“That would have helped getting up to speed,” said Sentes.

“In your first year, you’re learning so much. There are protocols you're not always aware of as a citizen, and I was not fully informed of all that.”

Her first meeting would have been chaired by local MLA Dan Ashton, who was the mayor at the time. And another councillor attending their first meeting with Sentes was councillor Dan Albas, who is now the MP for Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola.

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But Sentes never had any aspirations for higher levels of office or to run for mayor.

She enjoyed being one part in a larger decision-making process.

“Our thoughts are respected, everyone has to vote their conscience and what they think is best for the city.”

Sentes’ first two terms on council were for three-year periods and her final two were four years each, as the province extended the length of each term beginning in 2014. The added pressure that extra year put on potential candidates dissuades entrepreneurs and young adults who can’t commit to a lengthier time in office, she said. 

“Six out of seven of Penticton’s councillors are grandparents.... Not that that’s bad but it does limit the perspective, and you always want a balance.”

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Getting collectively blamed for the city’s social issues is the worst part about being a councillor, Sentes said, because many of the factors are beyond their control.

She hears comments to the effect of, “the City’s not doing anything” and “you’re inviting all these people to come here and look what’s happening.”

The current city council – which has beefed up the local bylaw enforcement, budgeted for additional RCMP officers, and added more supportive housing and shelters – has done everything it can within its limits, Sentes said.

The current council even started a conflict with B.C.’s Attorney General David Eby over the operations of a homeless shelter.

“Because we didn’t support what he was saying. That was a huge, uncomfortable scenario for us, when you challenge a prominent cabinet minister in the province. I wish people would check the facts before they chastise us.”

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But overall, serving on council was a positive experience. 

Sentes is proud to be part of the teams that rejuvenated waterfronts at both Okanagan Lake and Skaha Lake. She was also enthusiastic about promoting local arts, sports and history.

“It was a privilege and an honour to have a community to support me to be there.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Dan Walton or call 250-488-3065 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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