St. Marys Journal Argus
Final-week decisions by two former members to seek a return to St. Marys Town Council, as well as the rumoured entry of incumbent Tony Winter into the race, rounded out the slate for the position for the Oct. 27 municipal election. No additional candidates came forward on Friday, Sept. 12 — the final day to file nomination papers — and candidate Barry Brebner withdrew his name from competition earlier in the week, so that leaves 11 candidates for six Town Councillor seats and two for the top job as Mayor.
Stan Fraser, who was chosen by then councillors to complete the term of a sitting member who had accepted a job out of province in the early 2000s, filed his nomination papers on Wednesday, Sept. 10. Fraser contested the subsequent election, but was not re-elected.
Also on Thursday, Winter hand-delivered messages to the media announcing his candidacy. Winter has served several terms on Council, in addition to seeking the top job in two elections — one of which he won.
And Frank Doyle, who was elected as a Town Councillor in the early 1990s and has since boasted an impeccable attendance record at meetings as both a councillor and subsequently a newspaper reporter, threw his hat into the ring the following day.
“I went to a public meeting back in May regarding the environmental assessments (EAs) into the bridges (Water Street and Wellington Street), the water supply, and the sewage treatment plant . . . and I left there concerned," Fraser said of his decision to seek a return to Council. "I had some serious questions about what has happened (with those elements of the Town's infrastructure) in the last 10 years” since he was last on Council.
Fraser says his career background as a residential property developer (his Grand Trunk subdivision in the north end is now wrapped up, but he's still involved in the smaller SPF Homes development) and real estate salesperson (with the local Coldwell Banker agency) give him a strong background to provide insight into some of the challenges faced by the town.
“I think the town is a good residential community," he said, referring to the Stonetown as a possible "bedroom community" for London and Stratford. "I don’t see us as ever being a big industrial hub. Our growth should be in residential . . . And I think the town could do more to bring (that kind of) development to town.
"Residential development is not that much of a strain on the hard municipal services.”
Regarding his concerns after the EA meeting, he questioned why there's a need so soon to consider additional water supply and wastewater treatment infractructure. He noted that, 10 years ago, both the Hayes-Dana and Dresden Industries factories were in production, putting demands on both systems. He admitted he doesn't currently have access to all the details, but wonders if the big, looming expenditures being mentioned by the current Council are entirely necessary.
And he would like to see the Water Street Bridge issue dealt with — by converting the historic structure to pedestrian-only. "It's going to be a big issue (and) I know some people won't like what I say," Fraser admitted. But he added he "was disappointed when (the town's engineering firm) said we’ll do an environmental assessment," and there was no public discussion about whether that should be the preferred path.
In his message to the media, Winter touted his long experience, "both in the public and private sectors, as well as serving on Council."
Prior to first being elected to municipal office, when he was still a teacher here in St. Marys, Winter served several terms on the town's Public Utilities Commission, before it was sold to the City of Stratford-based Festival Hydro. He also worked following his retirement from teaching at a St. Marys-area industrial facility. He's now totally retired; however, he's far from idle as he continues to spend considerable time as a caregiver to his grandchildren.
Indeed, Winter's grandchildren have been mentioned at Council Chambers on numerous occasions during the past four years, as the long-time councillor has, on more than one occasion, cited his experiences with them as inspiration for his viewpoints. This includes his strong support for maintaining Cadzow Pool — one of the divisive issues that was faced by the current Council.
Speaking with the Journal Argus after filing his nomination papers, Winter said he wants to see a strong plan developed for the historic park area before any decisions are made.
He added that he's not just keeping his grandchildren in mind when he's at Town Hall. More than anything, he stressed, he aims to be a voice for regular people at Town Council.
"I'm a people person," he said. "I've always had to be a people person. So when people tell me they're concerned about something, I feel their voice needs to be heard."
At Council's most recent meeting, Winter insisted that the topic of responding to citizen communication be placed on the agenda. When the time came, he said, "I have lately been getting it in the ear about staff not responding to calls or emails."
"Our children and grandchildren need a vision for the future. As a town, we need to work to improve the quality of life for ALL its citizens and protect some of the 'soft' services such as the Museum, Library, tourism, and Senior Services to help maintain our image as 'The Town Worth Living In'," Winter wrote in his message to the media.
Major capital projects he cited in the message included a new well and reservoir for the north end of town, bridge issues on Trout Creek, upgrading the wastewater plant and extending the life of the landfill site.
One-time elected member Frank Doyle certainly didn't step away from Town Council once he was no longer a councillor. He attended meetings just as before, and spent at least as much time — or perhaps more — preparing for and processing the discussions around the table. That's because he subsequently established and operated the St. Marys Independent newspaper, for which he supplied all the Town Council reports.
Doyle recently sold the business but is still working in the editorial department.
Doyle has not yet responded to a request for an interview with the Journal Argus. However, an article in the St. Marys Independent stated he "is running to give people a better choice of whom to vote for."
The other candidates for St. Marys Town Council are incumbents Don Van Galen, Carey Pope, Bill Osborne and Lynn Hainer, former councillor David Cunningham, and newcomers Jim Craigmile, Al Tucker and Robby Smink. Candidates for mayor are incumbent Steve Grose and challenger Al Strathdee.