By Steve Guntli
Blaine City Council is back to full force.
The newest member of Blaine City Council, Mary Lou Steward, officially joined the council on March 9. She is filling the vacancy in ward 3, position 5 left by Clark Cotner, who resigned from the council in January.
Steward and her husband, David, are retired anesthesiologists who have lived in Blaine for nine years. During the winter, Steward splits her time between Blaine and Whistler, where she volunteers at the ski resort.
“I grew up in a small town in B.C. that was very similar to Blaine, so I feel like it’s come full circle for me,” she said. “Most of the places I’ve lived have been for work or for school or for family. Blaine is the first place I’ve lived because I really want to be here.”
Steward had no previous experience with politics, but she’s had a lifelong passion for local government and wanted to participate. That passion prompted Paul Greenough, a city council member and a close friend of Steward’s, to suggest she try for the vacant seat. Steward was reluctant at first, but Greenough convinced her she’d be right for the job.
“I don’t have any experience with something like this, but I know I love being here and a place is only as good as the people willing to put in the time,” she said. “I have the time, and I’m willing to do the work.”
Steward was up against four other candidates for the spot, and said she was amazed when she heard she’d been unanimously selected for the position.
“That was really wonderful for me, because it showed me that our group is very cohesive, and that makes the transition so much easier,” she said.
Steward said her first priority while in office is to help revitalize downtown Blaine. She said the key is setting up Blaine as a year-round destination for more than just Canadians.
“We have benefited from cross-border shopping from the lower mainland, but they’re hurting too,” she said. “The value of the Canadian dollar is down, so you can’t plan on expecting the Canadians to fix it. For many things, like dairy, gas and mail, it’s still worth their time to come here, and that’s great. But you need something with more legs for the long term, so you don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”
Like her predecessor, Steward plans to work with the economic development committee to plot the best course for downtown. She hopes to see a medical center come to Blaine, as well.
“Anyone with any medical history is forced to go to Bellingham or Seattle,” she said. “It’d be nice if we could do something to address that.”
Steward’s term expires this December. While her term has only just begun, she said she is hoping to run for a full term if all goes well.