There's a new twist on municipal elections in 2016. To allow enough time for ballots to be delivered to voters overseas, the timeline for ballot preparation has been moved up.
That means petitions for prospective councilmembers in all Delta County municipalities will be circulated from Jan. 5 through Jan. 25.
"People are going to have to start sooner, but it gives us plenty of time to get ready," said Rene Loy Maas, Delta County elections supervisor. She anticipates all municipalities will conduct their elections through the county -- unless there are just enough (or not enough) candidates to fill the open seats. In that case, the election will likely be cancelled.
Overseas ballots will be mailed Feb. 19. Voters in Delta County should expect to see their ballots in the mail the week of March 14. Election day is April 5.
"Not a lot of people think of the municipal election in January, but they're going to need to," said Jolene Nelson, Delta city clerk.
In Delta, three council seats will be filled during the municipal election. The seats are currently held by Ray Penick, Mary Cooper and Robert Jurca. Cooper and Jurca are both term limited.
Penick represents District A, and Cooper is from District B. Individuals interested in running for those seats must reside within those district boundaries, which can be found on the city website.
The other vacancy is an at-large position which can be filled by a qualified elector residing anywhere within the city.
Cooper said she's learned so much during her eight years in office, she's reluctant to step down.
"I spent years as a business owner saying, 'They should do something about this, and they should do something about that' and I decided I should be one of the 'they.' I hope whoever steps in and takes over my seat has a deep regard and downright care for the City of Delta and is willing to sit down and face the hard things that need to be addressed along with the enjoyable moments that will occur."
She has represented the city on the boards of Delta County Economic Development, Blake Field and Project 7 Water Authority.
"I have had a real learning curve on DCED and have admiration for the members who work long hours and no pay to try and get more jobs and businesses into Delta," Cooper said. "My position on Project 7 and the airport board have given me a greater appreciation for operations when I turn on the water or watch the planes fly over (I live at the base of the airport).
"I hope there are many people willing to invest themselves for four years and help keep the City of Delta on the right path towards the future," she said. "There are exciting things going on in the background and I have every confidence in the direction the City of Delta is heading."
Jurca sais any person who truly cares about Delta should consider some type of community service -- if not Delta City Council, then the planning commission, Delta Housing Authority or other organization.
"There are many ways to get involved," Jurca said. "There is no question that city council is the hardest yet most fulfilling position. A person may think they know what it takes to run a city, but until you're on council and begin to see the inner workings you really haven't clue.
"I hear all the time when you mention council to someone, 'I don't have the time.' This is an excuse. When I started on council I hade a second grader and a preschooler. They are now a senior and freshman. With simple time management, I have balanced a full time job, family commitments and council.
"The biggest thing citizens need to understand is without new ideas Delta will not progress. Council has been a recycling program. The only people running are former council members. With former members come the same old ideas. We need younger professionals to get involved. It is the only why to get new ideas and move this area forward. I will fall into the class of former council members shortly. I really hope in two years I'm not thinking of running because nobody is stepping up.
Jurca concluded, "Being on council you are giving back to your community while helping shape its future. The most satisfying part for me is knowing I have helped shaped Delta. My decisions can be considered right or wrong but I did what I felt was in the best interest of Delta."
Anyone interested in shaping the future of their community is urged to contact the town clerk of the community in which they reside for details about open seats and residency requirements.