Erik De Vries is settling into his new role as director for the Cariboo Regional District. (Photo submitted)

Erik De Vries is settling into his new role as director for the Cariboo Regional District. (Photo submitted)

New CRD Area L director settling into role

Eric De Vries said he ran to promote economic development

Eric De Vries may be new to the Cariboo Regional District (CRD) board, but he’s already got big plans for its future.

De Vries is the newly elected CRD Director for Area “L” (Lone Butte and the Interlakes), taking over from Willow MacDonald, who chose not to run for re-election. While he ran unopposed, he said his years spent at the Interlakes Volunteer Fire Department have given him the connections and knowledge to represent his community.

“I think that it is super important to keep a listening ear to the community. I’m already being approached quite a bit by people who have issues they need addressed, so I do my best to listen to them and try to bring their worries and concerns forward to the board,” De Vries said.

Originally from Holland, De Vries studied engineering and spent most of his life working in first the oil and gas industry and later as a managing director for an industrial metal company in Switzerland, where he met his wife and later adopted their two children. However, he said the “rat race” mentality of Europe started to wear on them and they decided to find a new country to live in.

After looking at options across the globe, De Vries said they settled on Canada following a vacation in B.C. He said his wife fell in love with Wells Gray Provincial Park and Bridge Lake because it reminded her of her hometown in northern Finland.

“Since we moved here in 2011 we’re been really impressed with the Canadian mentality and openness. That is a huge difference from what we were used to in Europe and here we really feel at home,” De Vries said. “We applied for our Canadian citizenship as soon as that was possible and now we are proud Canadians.”

Not long after settling down, De Vries became involved with the community through Bridge Lake Elementary. He was among those who fought to keep the school open when School District 27 announced they would close it, though they were ultimately unsuccessful.

In 2015 De Vries joined the Interlakes Volunteer Fire Department with his wife and quickly rose to the position of deputy fire chief and later fire chief. He stepped down from his position to run for the director’s seat this year. He said he was motivated to run to create economic opportunities for his children, who are now adults and have settled in the area.

“I see the struggle for young people to make a living in this area when they would like to live here. There is a big need to create communities where there are viable options for young people to find work and make a living,” De Vries said. “I thought it was my duty at my age — I’m almost 60 — to be part of the governance that has some influence on creating healthy communities.”

Since being sworn in earlier this month De Vries said there has been a “steep learning curve” but he’s started to learn how things work. As director, De Vries said he plans to represent everyone in the community, be they young people, retirees or snowbirds. Balancing the desires of those who want to see new economic opportunities with those who wish to see the community remain the same will be his main challenge going forward.

“We’ve got to work with what we have and create a balance. It’s challenging, but what we need are top-quality managers and top-quality communicators,” De Vries said. “I think I can add something, not to beat my chest, in a positive way.”

In the coming months, De Vries plans to find ways to promote better synergy between the CRD and local governments like the District of 100 Mile House and groups like SD27. He also will evaluate the CRD’s management, noting that good management is key to delivering the services taxpayers pay for.

“I’m really interested in finding out how the accountability and rewarding of managers works, because that was a big part of my work as a managing director.”

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