Ward candidates make their pitches at all-candidates meeting

Submitted by Jim Barber on October 11, 2014 – 11:54 am


Jim Barber, Greater Napanee News

A packed house at the Lafarge Banquet Hall at the Strathcona Paper Centre had a chance to meet, chat with and hear speeches and policy statements from all the folks running for office in the upcoming municipal election at a special all-candidates meeting this past Wednesday night.

Hosted jointly by the Napanee BIA, Rotary Club of Napanee and the Napanee & District Chamber of Commerce, the event featured short speeches from each of the candidates running in the five wards, as well as a question and answer session from the two mayoral candidates and two deputy mayoral candidates.

Bookended around that was an open-house style event that allowed voters to spend some time talking with the various candidates in a more up-close-and-personal way, especially the candidates in their respective wards, which organizers felt was more meaningful for voters.

And judging by the number of conversations and the abundance of interest from residents, it appeared to be a success.

The ward candidates each had a minute to speak to the audiences, which was not always easy, understandably. Ward 1 candidate John Dennis, a former local OPP officer, now retired, talked about working to keep taxes low while ensuring the municipality got maximum value for the tax dollars it did spend. He also reiterated a campaign plank first articulated in the Greater Napanee News that he would like to see a portion of every council meeting open to the public as a kind of ‘question period.’ He also said he would support motions to declare Greater Napanee an unwilling host for both wind turbines and an expansion or redevelopment of the current Richmond Landfill.

The incumbent for Ward 1, Mike Schenk, in a short statement talked about his experience both as a farmer and long-time volunteer firefighter as well as his extensive tenure around the council table and how he would like to continue to see the town moving down its current positive path.

Ward 2, which has no incumbent after Shane Grant withdrew his nomination earlier in the year, has three candidates running. Max Kaiser quoted from the famous Paul Harvey passage that ends with “So God made a farmer,” emphasizing his family’s extensive farming roots in the community.

Area real estate agent Dave Pinnell talked about his experience as a successful salesperson who was good at negotiating. He also stressed his deep affection for the community and the fact that he consistently supports charitable endeavours and other community activities.

Lastly, former councillor Peter Veltheer said he was encouraged to run by Grant and talked about his extensive experience on previous councils as well as a corporate executive and business owner. He said he has the ability to represent both the rural and urban portions of the ward.

Ward 3 is an interesting race in that long-time community activist and environmentalist Stephen Medd is up against a council veteran, Roger Cole, the current deputy mayor who decided to step away from that position to run as a councillor.

Cole said he has enjoyed representing the people of Napanee and that he still has the energy and drive to continue to serve on council. He said he is proud of the progress Napanee has made over the past term and cites the growth and vibrancy of the downtown as an example of that, as well as the new residential developments and bigger projects under way such as the Trans Canada facility and the new Napanee Community Health Centre home downtown.

Cole said policing costs will continue to be a challenge and a priority for the next council, while he also said he supports cultural programs and facilities and trying to find a way to get a year-round aquatics facility as priorities.

Medd, an IT professional at Loyalist College and a former geologist, said his work background makes him ideal to take on the challenges of the more technology-based era we are living in, as well as in issues related to science, such as the ongoing landfill issue.

If elected, he said he would ask the new council to make an official declaration against any new landfill development. He also said he would ensure council throws its support and resources to encourage the various sectors that spur and encourage economic growth and job creation, including the cultural and heritage sectors.

In Ward 4, incumbent Bill Pierson is facing off against two competitors: veteran real estate agent Carol Harvey and Canadian Forces veteran and community activist Ian Munro.

Harvey said she would bring a new perspective to the council table and that her extensive business experience as a real estate agent would be an asset. She said she would work to see tax rates stay as low as possible, to spend taxpayers’ dollars wisely and to maintain municipal services as cost-efficiently as possible.

Munro pointed out that Napanee is doing really well in many aspects at the moment but that the prosperity we are currently enjoying is under threat because the provincial government still has too much control over municipal planning, especially in areas concerning landfill sites, solar and wind farms. And that having those sorts of things come to Napanee would impact negatively on the community and its future growth and economic prosperity.

He said he has been working behind the scenes for more than a dozen years on various issues, particularly fighting against the expansion of the Richmond Landfill and the proposed Beechwood Road Environmental Centre, and has now decided to bring that experience to the council table, if elected.

Pierson touted his experience as a teacher at NDSS for 35 years and his similarly long time as a volunteer firefighter including being the last volunteer deputy chief and how that experience has given him a unique perspective on the community and its residents. He said he wants to continue to give back to the wonderful people of Napanee by serving once again on council.

In the 2010 election, Ward 5 was the closest and most competitive race with Shaune Lucas defeating Bill Martin by just nine votes with three other candidates also polling well. Lucas and Martin are back, and are joined by Robert Lewis, community volunteer who also formerly worked for the Town as well as for Ontario Power Generation.

Lewis talked about how he has lived in the town all his life and has always tried to give back to the community. He said now that he is retired that he would be able to devote the time to closely examine and study the various issues and concerns coming before council. He also boldly stated his opposition to any re-opening or expansion of the Richmond Landfill, calling any such plan ‘asinine.’

Lucas touted he and his family’s business experience in the downtown core and how they have been an integral part of its revitalization over the past number of years as well as his role as a councillor during the period of economic resurgence being experienced by the entire municipality. He too opposes any expansion to the Richmond Landfill and wants the next council to work hard to find a solution to the ongoing issue of developing an aquatics facility at the Strathcona Paper Centre.

Martin too talking about living in the community all his life and his experience coaching minor sports  and how his career as a real estate professional for many years has allowed him to learn a great deal about both the rural and urban parts of the municipality. He said that he would represent the constituents of Ward 5 to the best of his ability and that being a taxpayer himself, would respect how tax dollars are spent and ensure they are done so wisely.