Four candidates are officially in the running for a spot on the School District 58 Board of Education, another core piece of a busy election season in the City of Merritt. During the 2018 Civic Elections, three candidates ran unopposed for three local spots on the board. This time around, a fourth candidate has contested this election. 

The City of Merritt has three spots on the SD58’s Board of Education, with the rest made up of four trustees from Princeton and rural areas, the district’s Secretary Treasurer and Superintendent, and student representatives. The Board of Education meets on a monthly basis, sets the budget for the district, creates a strategic plan, and represents students and community members on education related issues.

Here is a glance at the four candidates each aiming for one of three allocated seats on the board:

Gordon Swan (incumbent)

“Chair of SD58, first elected 1996. Currently the Operations Manager at Canadian Red Cross BC and Yukon, focusing on Health in Emergencies (BC Vaccine Program and Ukraine resettlement). Retired for 35 years from senior management as a Government Agent for Merritt, Princeton and Kamloops. Past President of the BC School Trustees Association.

Firstly, I am a strong and passionate leader who can influence the province to ensure rural communities and their children’s needs are met, and that our children succeed. I get just as excited for my grandchildren’s future as I did for my 3 children, all who attended public school in Merritt. Second, to continue the great work of our SD58 staff, students, and citizens in moving our strategic plan forward that was interrupted by COVID, fires, and floods.”

Robert Leech

“My 35 years as a school board administrator well qualifies me for trustee. I began as an accountant, followed by Comptroller, Secretary-Treasurer, and then Assistant District Superintendent, administering a $43million budget in Alberta. I have been responsible for new school construction, restructuring transportation, developing a centre for older students, negotiating with teachers, support staff, and the provincial governments of Alberta and BC. The school district should be a learning community in which every student succeeds. I have been active in the community as President and Past President of the Merritt Seniors Centre Association.”

Justin Jepsen 

“My name is Justin Jepsen and I was born and raised in Merritt. I attended K-12 in Merritt and graduated from MSS in 2008. In 2011, after graduating from TRU in Kamloops, I joined the public service and began my career working for the Ministry of Transportation. I have been in my current position as a Road Area Manager in Merritt since 2015. I am married and have 3 children (ages 8, 10, 15) who all attend school in SD58. I actively volunteer within my children’s schools, as well as with Merritt Minor Hockey Association and with Merritt Minor Softball.  

I have the unique perspective of being a former student in SD58 who has children in the same school system. I am dedicated to this community that I grew up in, and will work to ensure that SD58 continues to provide a safe and welcoming learning environment for each student. I look forward to representing the members of this community and positively impacting the way that we educate our children.”

John Chenoweth, PhD (incumbent)

“My name is John Chenoweth, VP Academic at NVIT, and member of the Upper Nicola Indian Band.

Having served my first term as a trustee, I am looking forward to serving our communities and school district, should I be fortunate enough to be re-elected. I feel that my previous experience in both the K-12 and post-secondary levels affords me the knowledge and awareness to fully support this school district in moving our students forward with every opportunity to lead fulfilling and healthy lives. Leadership for myself is servitude, which equates to determining how best to support the people who work for us in a way that has the greatest impact on student advancement, be that academic, social, emotional, and through personal identity.”


The municipal election will take place on October 15, and will see Merrittonians elect one Mayor, six Councillors, and three trustees to a four year term. This is a part of a series of election coverage the Herald will offer this year, including upcoming interviews on relevant topics, Q&As, and more. To follow the Herald’s election coverage, visit