Chet Greason email@example.com
While incumbent Martin Ritsma has been a part of some big decisions worth a lot of money over the past four years as a member of council, he says it’s the small, everyday goings-on that he enjoys solving the most.
“Sometimes we look at what we consider the big issues, but it’s the everyday stuff we can’t lose focus on,” says the long-time educator and principal of Stratford Northwestern Secondary School.
“Issues with neighbours, water being backed up, tax issues… it’s the daily things that impact people’s lives every day that I find most rewarding.
“The big banner pieces get a light shone on them, but we can’t let those eclipse the day-to-day stuff.”
While this election marks the end of Ritsma’s first term on council, he’s able to boast a long list of community involvement both before and during his foray into politics. A farmer, he’s served on the Stratford and District Agricultural Society for 14 years, including stints as president. He’s been director of the Western Ontario Secondary Schools Athletic Association (WOSSAA) and president of the Ontario Federation of School Athletics Association (OFFSAA).
Through his involvement on those committees, he’s helped bring the OFFSA Golf Championship to the city later this month, along with 120 golfers, as well as their coaches, families, and fans.
And that, he says, is good for business.
He adds that he’s proud of the investments the current council has put into infrastructure, and would like to see the city continue to grow as a future home for business and industries, particularly as related to agriculture.
“We’re sitting on some of the best land in the world here,” he notes.
Ritsma says his term on council has left him somewhat wiser.
“You don’t understand the intricacies of municipal politics until you sit at the table,” he says. “At the subcommittee level, you become a bit of an expert by something that’s brought to the table by a citizen or a company, and then have to bring it to council.”
And council’s where Ritsma says his real voice rings out, not in a rant or a speech, but in his voting yea or nay.
“My mantra is to ensure my ears, eyes, and heart are open to the thoughts of the people,” he says. “I could sit there and say, ‘This is what I want Market Square to look like’… but I’m not representing me, I’m representing the people.”
Ritsma says he’s re-thought his stance on an issue multiple times after hearing someone’s point of view at the subcommittee level. This, he explains, is why he ran.
“Service is my platform,” he says.