Member Bios

The Rural Advisory Council consists of the following members:

Chair: Donna Barnett, 100 Mile House was appointed Minister of State for Rural Economic Development on Oct. 21, 2016. Previously she was Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations for Rural Development since June 10, 2013. She is also a member of the Environment and Land Use Committee. Donna has previously served as Parliamentary Secretary for Rural Communities and Development to the Minister of Community, Tourism, Sport and Cultural Development. She has been a member of the select standing committees on Aboriginal Affairs, on Health, and on Parliamentary Reform, Ethical Conduct, Standing Orders and Private Bills.

Debra Arnott, Cache Creek is general manager of Community Futures Sun Country and has co-owned and operated a logging company with her husband for the last nine years. She has experience working with local government and has a strong passion for enhancing economic development in rural communities.

Susan Clovechok, Fairmont Hot Springs is executive director of the Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce. With more than 25 years in business, she has a wide range of experience in sales, customer service, and quality and operational management. She wants rural communities to be economically diverse and sustainable, while providing residents the lifestyle that attracted them to their chosen community in the first place.

Geri Collins, Kamloops is director of operations for the Community Futures Development Corporation of Central Interior First Nations. She and her husband owned and operated a successful construction business and also raise cattle as a family venture. Geri has been a member of the Southern Interior Beetle Action Coalition since its inception and is a member of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc (Kamloops) Band.

Tom Hoffman, Williams Lake is a registered professional forester and a board member of Community Futures Cariboo-Chilcotin and the Northern Development Initiative Trust. He believes that rural B.C. has a long and proud tradition in resource development, including innovation to expand economic benefits.

Bill Holmberg, Williams Lake has more than 20 years of experience in business, and is currently a manager of a heavy-duty equipment business in Houston. Having spent two terms as the mayor of Houston, he is able to bring a local government perspective from a rural standpoint) to the committee.

Chief Roy Jones Jr., Skidegate is a commercial fisherman and has interacted with almost all of B.C.’s coastal communities. He has been on the Native Brotherhood of B.C. general executive for 23 years. A hereditary chief on the Council of the Haida Nation, he spends his time encouraging young adults to continue their education and pursue business opportunities.

Sue Kenny, Dawson Creek is the general manager of Community Futures Peace Liard and executive director of the Northeast Regional Community Foundation. Living in northern B.C. makes her well aware of the challenges that are faced by rural communities. As a former city councillor in Dawson Creek, she has had an opportunity to build relationships with businesses and stakeholders alike.

Jonathan Lok, Port McNeill is a registered forest technician and a managing partner in a consulting firm. He has more than 20 years of experience in the forest sector. He brings his experience in facilitation, project management, communications and leadership to the Rural Advisory Council.

Grace McGregor, Christina Lake was previously the owner of a small business and is now chair of the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary, vice-chair of the Southern Interior Beetle Action Coalition and engaged in many other community organizations. Her keen interest in rural B.C. began seven years ago when she attended the Reversing the Tide Conference in Prince George. Following subsequent meetings, McGregor and others put together a paper entitled What rural B.C. needs to survive.

Chris Pieper, Armstrong is mayor and has more than 20 years in local government. Previously, he worked in the forest sector and as a consultant. He believes strongly in the value of rural communities and feels that support and opportunities must be enhanced to allow for maximum growth.

Sylvia Pranger, Agassiz has local government experience as mayor and as a councillor. She is an active volunteer in her community and appreciates the contributions that rural communities make to B.C. She wants to be a voice at the table to make sure that rural issues are heard.

Gerry Thiessen, Vanderhoof is mayor of the district municipality, vice-chair of the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako and vice-chair of the Omineca Beetle Action Coalition. He also owned a cattle operation. His vision for rural B.C. is to make sure the residents are healthy and educated and stay in their community to make it economically sustainable.

Eric (Rick) Thompson, McBride is a retired district administrator for School District 57 and a former school principal. He is currently the successful owner/operator of three small businesses in McBride. He has vast experience working in education and regional government. Having seen success with small businesses in a rural setting, he is sure that the Council will be able to increase those opportunities in other communities.