Four years ago, the mayoral race in Faro came down to a nail-biting finish: Jack Bowers and Leonard Faber tied for an equal number of votes. Faber’s name was eventually drawn from a hat.
This year is a rematch between Faber and Bowers, but with a third candidate — current councillor Lisa Snyder — it’s unlikely to be a tie.
The three experienced candidates are vying for the leadership role in a time of some big changes for Faro. The town is much larger than the population of 348 residents would indicate. Once a bustling industry town, the Faro Mine has been quiet since the 90s. Federal remediation work continues to ramp up in the area, and in September a portion of the mine site was acquired by a partnership between mining investors and the Ross River Dena Council.
Current mayor Len Faber narrowly won the last election, becoming mayor when his name was drawn from a hat. He acknowledged that he spent some of the last four years learning how to be a mayor of council, and wants to continue in the role.
“I still want to remain as mayor if the residents wish I do so. I think there are some challenging times ahead of us and good times all wrapped in one,” he said.
Faber moved to Faro in 1989 to work in the heating plant at the mine site. He left the town when the mine closed, but eventually returned in 2005.
He noted it’s also been a busy construction season in the town, with a new RCMP detachment and commercial development being built. He said most of the original buildings in Faro have been sold, but it’s hard to find rentals in Faro.
He referred to remediation contracts and the potential for mining on the Vangorda lands as two factors that will bring changes to Faro, including more companies to work for. He said it’s unlikely that Faro will ever return to the size it was during the mining heyday, but the recent developments will create more opportunities.
“That’s all going to add a little pressure to the town, which is good pressure. I’ve never seen it so busy,” he said. “It’s the changing times, and I want to be a part of it. Plus, I’m also excited about the people running for council, because these people are all newer residents, people that have been here maybe five years or less, so it’s a whole new council. So it’s gonna be an interesting time and I hope I can be part of it.”
After spending close to eight years serving on council, most recently as deputy mayor, Lisa Snyder is leaving the post to make a run for the top job. Snyder said she believes her extensive experience will make her an effective leader.
“I feel that you should become a counselor first and get some experience. I felt that I could run as counsellor again, but I feel I’m experienced enough to be able to help a [new council],” she said.
Snyder was born in Whitehorse and moved to Faro in 2008. A professional bookkeeper and an avid volunteer with the Golf Club, she first ran in 2014 to become a councillor. Snyder was re-elected again in 2018.
“It can take a long time for councillors, say about a year, before a councillor is really on board and is comfortable with their role. I felt that having had such a great mentor myself that I wanted to be that person for the new ones coming on board this time.
“I thought my years of experience and knowledge of council business and rules would be beneficial in helping them become receptive and focused in their roles,” she said.
She said she is aware that the condition of roads is a concern among residents, and the town also needs to carefully consider how to maintain Faro’s outsized infrastructure with such a small tax base of residents.
But overall, she said having a long list of promises is less effective than promising to listen to residents as mayor.
“I don’t believe that having a list of items and projects is what’s important. Because what’s important to one person isn’t necessarily what’s important to another. I’m actually campaigning on the belief that the mayor’s role is to be a leader who can bring the council members together as a team,” she said.
Jack Bowers came to Faro in the 1980s as an engineer working for the mine. His career led to becoming operations manager at the Town of Faro and then working in British Columbia before returning to the Yukon in 2009 for a job within the Yukon government.
Bowers ran for mayor of Faro in 2015 and was successful, serving as the head of government in the community until the last election, when he tied with challenger Faber and eventually lost out on a random draw.
“I’m an engineer by profession. So I understand the infrastructure side of municipalities,” said Bowers. “I think I have some things to contribute. The mayor is just one voice out of five, it’s part of a team.”
Bowers acknowledged the big changes coming to the town and said Faro is excited that the Ross River Dena Council is taking a leading role in a new potential mining endeavor. Within the town itself, he said one of the biggest concerns right now in the community is the state of roads and the lack of a bylaw officer in the town.
“If you’ve got bylaws, you have some way of enforcing them,” he said.
“If you’ve been to Faro, you’ll notice that our roads are in terrible condition—that’s there on this Build Canada list of things to do. But we have to get moving on that,” he said.
“We want to make sure that we’re inclusive of all sides of the community. So we’ve got councillors from all walks of life. Hopefully, when the dust settles and the elections are over we’ll have a good team and people who move forward,” he said. “We’ve seen the community both in the heydays, and of course through the hard times since, but we’re on the rebound now.”
Faro residents will go to the polls on October 21. Voters will be able to pick a mayor from the three candidates and choose four other people they’d like to see serve as councillors. Five people are seeking the four council seats in the community: Sarah McHugh, Leif Nyland, Russell Truman, Taylor Fetterly and Paul Medrid.
Contact Haley Ritchie at email@example.com