Incumbent takes on councillor and newcomer
Woodrow French wants to finish what he started after eight years as mayor of Conception Bay South.
“One of the things I did when I got elected mayor (in 2008) was have the town develop a business plan,” he said.
“Of course, at that time, Premier (Danny) Williams was in the office, and I said, ‘If we’re going to talk with Premier Williams, we should talk in the language that he understands, which is business.’”
According to the mayor, most of the goals in that business plan have been achieved, so now he wants to see it through to the end.
To do that, he’ll have to defeat two other candidates in Tuesday’s municipal election, including a fellow council member.
French is being challenged for a second time by Ken McDonald, who placed second out of five candidates in the 2005 election before running successfully in 2009 for the Ward 3 council seat. The other candidate is Gord Taylor, a 39-year-old electrician. This is his first time running for council.
Funding secured from the provincial and federal governments over the course of French’s two terms exceeded $100 million, according to the mayor. He speaks proudly of the soon-to-be-built new stadium, the recently opened Manuels River Hibernia Interpretation Centre, a new town hall on the horizon, and the Manuels River Linear Park.
“These are some of the things that certainly I’m really proud of,” said French.
For the next four years, French wants to prioritize spending on water, sewer and roads.
He would also like to see progress made on affordable housing and public transportation. French also wants to encourage more businesses to take advantage of the commercial business park called The Gateway.
Speaking with residents on the campaign trail, French has heard good things about the direction C.B.S. has taken under his leadership.
“Contrary, I’m sure, to what my opponents would say, what I’m getting at the door is that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
McDonald, who also spent three years as councillor for Ward 3 in the 1990s, believes he has proven his worthiness as a mayoral candidate over the last four years. Based on his encounters going door-to-door in the community, he’s also optimistic about his chances of winning.
“I’m confident that come next Tuesday, I will win the race.”
McDonald said council needs to do a better job of listening to residents.
“I felt that’s missing from the top,” he said.
“I think people are looking for somebody with the right leadership, but (who) still listens to the people. Somebody said to me one time, ‘Never forget, it’s the people that you serve.’ I think to some degree that’s been a little bit forgotten, and I want to bring that back to the mayor’s chair.”
The condition of some roads feeding into Route 60 in C.B.S. is deplorable, according to McDonald. He also notes there remains some parts of the community that do not have water and sewer connections.
“I think we have to start paying a little bit more attention to that,” he said.
On development, McDonald suggested the town is moving too quickly to approve projects in order to reap the benefits of property tax revenue. He said more attention should be paid to the effects such development has on traffic and water runoff.
McDonald also expressed disappointment over the lack of suitors for the Gateway business park. Kent Building Supplies currently occupies 10 acres of the 100-acre site.
“We’ve gotten one tenant in four years.”
With a population of almost 25,000, McDonald believes C.B.S. is well-suited to attract stores like Canadian Tire and Walmart.
Taylor wants to see C.B.S. grow into a community that his three-year-old daughter will want to live in when she grows up.
While he has no experience serving on council, Taylor was raised watching his father work for the town, and he has maintained a personal interest in the affairs of council.
“I’ve seen what other councils haven’t done, and I more or less want to help the people of C.B.S. get the water and sewer, get the roads paved, get the things that a town person wants, not necessarily what council wants. There’s too many people in C.B.S. that still don’t have water and sewer. Our roads ... most of the side roads and even parts of the main road are in poor, poor condition.”
Taylor said schools in the area are overcrowded and that there’s a need for more daycare centres in C.B.S. He feels past councils have not paid enough attention to the growing community’s needs.
“Council doesn’t seem to be too concerned about the businesses and services needed to help the people who are moving into C.B.S. They’re just concerned about how many houses we can put up so we can get property tax off people.”
If elected, Taylor would like to see a community that four years from now has improved water and sewer, more businesses, less crowded schools, more speed bumps for side streets, and more park space for families to enjoy.