Village of Silverton mayor steps down after untangling municipal operations

A few months after seeking provincial help to untangle municipal operations Silverton’s mayor has resigned.

Colin Ferguson tendered his resignation — in a letter dated Jan. 5 — for April 5 in anticipation of an election, citing finding himself “at odds with council and too far out of step to continue as mayor,” he wrote in an email to incoming Mayor Tanya Gordon.

He pointed to harassment of public officials by the public — a resolution which will appear on the agenda at the Association of Kootenay Boundary Local Governments convention — as one of the contributing factors to him resigning.

Last fall the Village of Silverton, the second smallest municipality in Canada, had employed the services of a provincial government municipal advisor — for 12 weeks — in order to address several issues during a “difficult time” it had experienced since the last general election.

In October 2023, the chief administrative officer for the Village, Viv Thoss, and Ferguson were able to ask and receive approval from Village council to bring in an advisor from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs to deal with the matters.

At that same time, in a report to the Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK) board of directors, Ferguson stated there were also difficulties residing within council at the start of the advising process.

He noted there were many contributing factors to Silverton’s turbulence: new management; staffing dynamics; discovery of issues with basic services and infrastructure neglect; an overload of funded projects with woefully insufficient capacity; and time and diligence for negotiations with the union just formed for Village staff.

Thoss and two Public Works employees comprise Silverton’s entire staff.

“Being a small village, Silverton has a limited tax base and small staff, and over the years some administrative tasks and infrastructure maintenance became neglected as a result,” Ferguson said. “Since I was elected and we brought in a new CAO, we have been working through those on a priority basis. The advisor was called in to help us plan for remaining items, and also help us address some dynamics on council so we can work together more effectively.”

The provincial advisor provided strategic planning, creating a timeline for the many projects the Village had on its slate, as well as prioritizing overdue infrastructure repairs and maintenance — water system, fire hydrants and dikes. They also provided administrative advice.

A municipal council can ask the Ministry of Municipal Affairs to help navigate challenging governance issues, with an appointed independent advisor.

Timothy Schafer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Nelson Daily