This is the second in a series profiling White Rock council members who were elected Oct. 15
Ernie Klassen had been thinking of entering politics for 10 years and has now won a seat on White Rock council, in his second attempt, for the next four years.
A few meetings have passed for the new seven-member council, but the group still seems to be in the early stages of learning about each other.
“We’re all listening to each other and getting to know each other and recognizing that we all have a vision for the city,” the rookie councillor said.
“We may not all have the same vision, but we all have a vision,” Klassen said, laughing.
With respect to new mayor Megan Knight, Klassen says their relationship is “great” so far.
“That’s not to say I’m going to be her puppet. I feel very comfortable agreeing and disagreeing with her on issues.”
Among Klassen’s priorities, he explained, are to “revitalize the business community, create a friendlier environment in the city, create more events and more tourist attractions.”
As the owner of a flower shop in White Rock, Klassen sees inflation as a barrier the city needs to take seriously “to make sure we’re up-to-date and modern because we’re competing with South Surrey,” so ensuring low taxes for services are a must, in his eyes.
“The reality is that we are all pretty much small businesses in White Rock.”
Another priority for the politician is to streamline development and permitting in the city, a goal that most councillors share with him, Klassen said.
Although his opinions on the changes he would like to see are clear, Klassen maintains that he is a “realist.”
“We’re going to have to learn how to compromise because there’s no way that everything all of us want to do is going to get done, it’s just impossible.”
One of the main reasons Klassen wanted to get involved this election, he said, was to restore city hall from the rumoured “dysfunctional council” from last term.
How they will keep themselves from repeating patterns, Klassen says, will be easier since the six people elected did not run together on a slate.
“The former council ran on a slate so (residents) assumed that they would be of like mind and, obviously, that changed at some point,” he said.
“We’ve all got our own opinions, so there’s no expectation from us that we will all agree on everything and, as a matter of fact … if we all agreed, we wouldn’t need a council, so it’s the best thing if we all come with different opinions and work through it.”
Feeling that residents wanted a change at city hall, Klassen says the new council presents a good mix of individuals to represent the different groups of people who live in the seaside town.
Apart from his flower shop, Klassen was a director with the South Surrey and White Rock Chamber of Commerce – a role from which he has stepped away – as well as founder and president of the White Rock Pride Society and was previously the president of the White Rock BIA.
He is “giving up some of the (Pride) responsibilities” to focus on the new role as city councillor.
Looking ahead to meetings over the next four years, Klassen is certain that his new council “family” will work well together after becoming more familiar with one another’s “quirks.”
Editor’s note: an earlier version of this story incorrectly indicated the October 2022 election was Klassen’s first run for a seat on White Rock City council. The story has been updated to clarify that it was, in fact, his second attempt at a council seat.