A resident of Qualicum Beach for 33 years with loads of public service work to her credit, Denyse Widdifield has never run for public office.
She has decided her first foray into politics will be an effort to unseat the longest-serving mayor in the town’s history, Teunis Westbroek.
Widdifield has announced her intentions to run for mayor of Qualicum Beach in the Nov. 15 municipal election. She says she has no personal axe to grind with Westbroek.
“He’s very polite and personable,” said Widdifield. “I don’ think there’s anything wrong with Teunis Westbroek the man, but I think 15 years as a mayor in a small town is too long — it shouldn’t be a career. I really feel that Qualicum Beach needs somebody to look at things a little differently than they’ve been looked at for that long.”
Widdifield, 68, spent 10 years on the executive board of the Qualicum Beach Chamber of Commerce, including two terms as its president. She also spent eight years on the Rotary Club and chamber gala committee, assisting with fundraising for the Heritage Forest and the Qualicum Beach Civic Centre.
“There was an incredible togetherness for years in Qualicum Beach,” said Widdifield. “We accomplished that by working together, using the spirit of Qualicum Beach. Now, there’s fear mongering and something has happened to not protect a good balance of demographics in Qualicum Beach.”
Widdifield said the zero growth policies of councils lead by Westbroek have hurt the town, and she “panicked” when she saw the downtown elementary school closed by the district earlier this year.
She said she and her team are currently developing a platform, but said she doesn’t want to release specifics until she’s had a chance to meet and speak with more residents. She said she plans to visit 100 households this week to hear what people have to say.
“I announced this early because I have to talk with the people of Qualicum Beach,” said Widdifield. “What I feel needs to be addressed might not be what the people want addressed. From there, that’s where we should be forming our policies.”
Widdifield said she knows this race could get personal. She’s aware of recent news stories about conflict of interest and relationships between residents who have business with council and members of council, like the allegations recently fired at Coun. Dave WIllie in relation to the Dutton family’s proposed development at Pheasant Glen Golf Resort.
“Are we friends with the Duttons? Yes we are,” said Widdifield. “Are we friends with the Willies? Yes, we’ve known them for 20 years. We’ve been here for 30-plus years — I would hope we have a lot of friends.”
Widdifield was asked if her candidacy was more about bringing issues into the open than winning.
“I’m in it to win it,” she said. “If I thought I didn’t have a chance I wouldn’t be wasting the time, energy and money.”