Councillors consider run for mayor’s job but not ready to commit yet

By Kirk Winter

Andy Letham will not run again for the mayor's job next year.

Among a survey of current councillors, Pat Dunn, Doug Elmslie and Ron Ashmore are all considering a run for the mayor’s position next November.

While Councillors Kathleen Seymour-Fagan, Tracy Richardson, Emmett Yeo and Andrew Veale were given the opportunity to respond, they did not return calls to the Advocate.

Just days ago, Lindsay lawyer Jason Ward made his candidacy official in a full-length interview with the Advocate.

Ward Five councillor Pat Dunn, who represents part of Lindsay, said he does have an interest in running for mayor in 2022 but has not made a final decision.

“My current intention is to run for a seat on council,” Dunn said.

Dunn believes that an election for mayor featuring three or four candidates should offer enough variety for the electorate.

When asked if the next mayor would benefit from having council experience Dunn it’s a huge benefit and “offers insight into how municipal government works.”

“However, the attributes of successfully running or working in business would more than compensate for a lack of council experience,” Dunn said.

Dunn believes that the key issues for council between now and the election should be affordable housing and debt management. Dunn said that all levels of government are discovering that the issue of affordable housing is a serious obstacle to economic growth.

The councillor said while some debt is necessary, every expenditure needs to be examined.

Doug Elmslie, who represents Ward Three from Fenelon Falls, said he has an interest (in the mayor’s position) “but has yet to make a decision.”

 He offered a similar answer when asked if he will be running for council again.

Elmslie agrees with Dunn that a two-to-four candidate race for the empty mayoral chair would be appropriate.

In the next 11 months, Elmslie would like to see the city pass the 2022 budget, adopt the 10-year Financial Plan, adopt a consolidated by-law plan, complete and adopt the Trails Master Plan and the Active Transportation Plan.

When asked what skills mayors should possess, Elmslie said they should include leadership and management skills, maturity, life skills and experience and knowledge of municipal affairs.

Elmslie believes direct council experience isn’t necessarily needed, but it’s a big asset. “A former municipal employee could do it. It would take an exceptional individual to understand how things work in under two years. Institutional knowledge is very valuable.”

Ron Ashmore, the councillor from Ward Six, who represents Omemee-Dunsford-Downeyville said he hasn’t decided yet.

“An endorsement of at least two former candidates would have to occur to make the numbers work (for me).”

When asked if he would be contesting his council seat, Ashmore said that decision will be something he considers along with his family in about six months when the nominations open. 

“For the time being I will concentrate on my job working and serving the people of my ward to the best of my ability.”

Any number of candidates (for the mayoral race) is fine, according to Ashmore. “Elections are meant to be hard and the hardest working candidate wins. That is how democracy works.”

In the next 11 months he believes the city needs to work on improving customer service. He also listed the consolidation of bylaws and streamlining the developing process as priorities. Ashmore also wants to see the passing of a 2022 budget that is within the city’s spending means and does not incur anymore long-term debt.

Ashmore is fully supportive of a candidate from outside council running. “There is nothing wrong with being from outside of council,” Ashmore said. “Someone who has struggled or had challenges and has some business experience makes the best leader as they know what life is all about. Also, you need someone who works for the people not the bureaucracy. It is important to never forget that.”

The only guarantee of the next election will be for the first time in five decades Pat O’Reilly, currently deputy-mayor and councillor from Ward Seven representing Lindsay/Ops, will not be on the ballot.

O’Reilly said it is time for fresh blood on council and time for people with new ideas to run and represent the people of Kawartha Lakes.

“I think an ideal election would feature three to four serious candidates,” O’Reilly said. “I hope that the meanness we have seen in the constituency the last couple of years is gone. People are angry at politicians right now.”

O’Reilly would like to see candidates with a community and city-wide focus. He also believes that financial astuteness is a valuable quality for a future mayor.

When asked about the value of having municipal experience before a mayoral run O’Reilly said while experience on council would be an asset, there are plenty of examples from across the province where that has not been the case.

O’Reilly said that council priorities for the next 11 months should include passing the 10-year Financial Plan, building up reserves and looking at capital projects, as well as upgrading the ones that are needed and are affordable.

In retirement, O’Reilly is looking forward to watching the unprecedented growth expected for Kawartha Lakes with new building projects approved for Lindsay, Fenelon Falls, Bobcaygeon and Woodville.

When asked if he will endorse a candidate for Ward Seven, O’Reilly said he would not.

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