The results are in: former Penticton city councillor and newly-acclaimed Conservative candidate Helena Konanz has been named the Herald’s Newsmaker of the Year.
With 42 per cent of the vote, it’s safe to say that in the eyes of the community, 2018 was Konanz’s year. And on a political spectrum, it really was.
“Earlier in the year, I wasn’t sure if I was going to run or not for city council. At some point, I felt that it would be time to step away and let someone else give their input into what should happen with the city,” Konanz said Tuesday.
And after two terms on council and the Regional District of the Okanagan-Similkameen, Konanz knew that time had come.
“I was approached by quite a few people saying, ‘Why don’t you take your platform that you had on city council and bring it forward to the federal level and run for the nomination?’”
Konanz added that the chance of throwing the city into a by-election if she moved on to parliament was another setback for running in this year’s local election.
So she set her sights on the federal level, and she campaigned – and claimed - the candidacy for the Conservative party.
And although she misses council, Konanz is excited to fight for the riding of South Okanagan-West Kootney at a federal level.
“I loved my time on council. It was a great opportunity that was given to me by the community to make a difference in the community,” she said. “I think (this is) a really good step because I’m taking what I learned at the local level and bringing to the federal election, which I think will be really good for this riding.”
Konanz understands the world of being a small business owner, because she is one: alongside her husband, they run Konanz Chiropractic. And as a local for 24 years and counting, she knows what matters in the community.
“Employers are being held responsible for more and more – it’s costing so much more money to run a business,” she said. “This riding, and this country, is full of small business owners, so we need to keep them in mind with every decision we make.”
She’s also dedicated to continuing to beat the drum on the importance of the YES Project.
“One of things I feel really proud about, as city council, is our support of the YES Project,” she said. “It’s going to make a huge difference in this region, and community, because it address mental health for the youth, which is very important.”
The year had other memorable moments, too.
“I’m really proud to say that I finished my master’s in political science at UBCO and my thesis was just published last month,” Konanz said. “That was really exciting – I learned a lot more about politics while studying, and it was really interesting to do while being on city council and the regional district.”
With a family, a small business and at the time being a city councilor, going back to school wasn’t easy, but Konanz says it taught her a lot about more than just politics.
“It was also interesting being in a classroom with the younger generation, in their 20s, (because) I could get their perspective,” she said.
Mayor John Vassilaki came in second on the poll with 27 per cent of the votes, and local panhandler Paul Braun came in third at 12 per cent.
Also in this year’s running for title was Summerland Mayor Toni Boot, with five per cent of the vote, RCMP Supt. Ted De Jager at six per cent, Summerland’s Olympic gold medalist Justin Kripps at six per cent and newly-elected school board trustee Kathy Pierre at two per cent.