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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Essex Council postpones appointing Ward 3 position one week

- Rogers withdraws application: “You don’t need someone with previous Council experience. You need someone new in the gene pool.”

by Sylene Argent

On Monday evening, Essex Council met virtually to meet the applicants who wish to fill the vacant Ward 3 – Colchester – rep position at the local municipal decision-making table for the remainder of this Term of Council, which will end this fall.

Ultimately, after hearing from the 12 applicants, Council decided to delay appointing someone to the position until the March 7 regular meeting.

The Ward 3 position was declared open when a shuffling of existing Councillors took place. That began when former Mayor Larry Snively pleaded guilty during a pretrial session at the Provincial Court on Friday, January 7, to the charge of having induced or procured a person to vote when that person was not entitled to do so, contrary to section 89(d) of the Municipal Actions Act. He soon after resigned from the top position on Essex Council.

Following that decision, during a special meeting hosted on January 24, a majority Council vote selected then Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche to take over the mayoral position for the Town of Essex. Then, on January 31, a majority Council vote appointed Ward 3 then Councillor Steve Bjorkman to the Deputy Mayor position.

Further, at a special meeting held on February 7, Council decided to fill the now vacant Ward 3 position through an application process.

Those interested in applying for the Ward 3 position had until February 22 to do so. In total, 12 individuals threw their name into the ring, including former Councillor Bill Caixeiro, who resigned as one of the two Ward 3 Councillors last term, triggering a By-Election Ron Rogers won. Rogers also applied for the current vacant spot, in addition to making it known he was interested in the Mayor and Deputy Mayor positions when they became vacant. Former Essex Mayor Ron McDermott put his name into the ring, as did Percy Dufour, who was elected to Council three times. Three of those years he was Deputy Mayor.

Richard Kokovai who ran for the position in the 2017 by-election, and Rodney Hammond, who ran for the position in the 2017 by-election and the 2018 election, also put their names forward.

Other applicants included Jason Matyi, Eldon Brush, Brad Allard, Sherry Ducedre, Mac Goslin, and Randy Macleod.

Each application was included on the agenda for the meeting, so Councillors could review them. Each candidate was also asked to provide a written statement of qualifications and interest in the role, and were given a maximum of five-minutes to address Council during the meeting, if they wished to. Two of the applicants did not address Council; Dufour and Brush, who is a lifelong resident of the Ward and currently owns and operates a family farm with his son-in-law. He is a retired construction and maintenance electrician at the University of Windsor.

When addressing Council, Caixeiro said he knows the village well, as he has lived there the majority of his life. He spent one full and a partial term on Council. He believes he is someone who can step into the position, and has the time to focus on the position until the end-of-the-term.

Matyi has lived in Colchester for 25-years. He has volunteered with Scouts Canada, the Military Muster, and Harrow Fair. In his career, he has had to work with the Ministry of Labour and safety contractors, and security teams. During the pandemic, he took the opportunity to further his education and is currently working on his last course to earn a Bachelor of Engineering. He has had to deal with a drainage issue near his home, and his work as a homeowner with the municipality sparked his interest in public service.

Allard is a former factory worker. He cited affordable housing, reliable utilities and services, safe and durable roadways, and safe neighbourhoods as topics of importance. He said he would work with constituents and fellow Councillors to better the environment in which they live. Infrastructure in Ward 3 would be a priority. He said hydro outages are a weekly complaint, and blaming utilities does not solve the issue. He would like to get solutions for this issue.

Ducedre is a City of Windsor employee, who has worked mostly in public works. Through her work, she said she has been providing quality services to the community and has learned basic political structures within the corporation. She sat on the Committee of Adjustment for Amherstburg for 11-years, and is now on the same committee for Essex. She has also been on two Council compensation advisory board committees, and is a former member of the St. Clair College Board of Directors Alumni. She said she has made herself aware of issues in Ward 3.

Kokovai serves Essex on its Accessibility Advisory Committee and the Municipal Heritage Committee. He said previously, he served on Essex Council for three-terms. He worked for the WECHU as a tobacco policy specialist, tobacco enforcement officer, and health promotion specialist in tobacco and smoking cessations. He also served as a Provincial Offences Officer. Kokovai added he addresses misconceptions and concerns regarding municipal government on social media.

Rogers thanked residents for their support in his attempts to obtain the previous appointments. He was pleased to see the list of persons applying, with many new faces showing an interest. There are also familiar names, who worked hard to get elected. He believes anyone who does not reside in Ward 3 should be rejected, in addition to those with any previous Council experience. The next few months can spark a new Councillor into years of service to their community.

“At this time, you don’t need someone with previous Council experience. You need someone new in the gene pool,” Rogers said. With that, he withdrew his name from being considered. “Council, you created this vacancy not in the best interests of your constituents. You can now show your service and forward thinking to our Town by appointing a brand-new face, Ward 3 resident to fill the vacancy.”

Goslin is a lifelong resident of Colchester. He spent most of his childhood with a pitchfork in his hands or throwing hay bales. He was educated and played hockey in Harrow. In 2002/2003, he worked as a rink attendant at the Essex Memorial Arena, which he thoroughly enjoyed. He believes his work makes him specially qualified for the position. He said his job related to Council in that he fixes furnaces, air conditioning, and plumbing. He has done that in hundreds of homes over the past 18-years, and has heard the honest complaints of the residents. He hoped Council would consider him, a regular guy who truly cares about the history and future of the Town he lives in.

Hammond said regardless of the decision, he is already a winner. The references he provided are affirmations that his contributions to the community are being recognized and appreciated. He said he is fascinated with the Town’s history, and the people who shaped the community. Along with the Harrow Research Station, farmers are feeding the world using ground-breaking technologies, while balancing small profit margins. The Town faces a similar balancing act as it deals with new home builds, developments, and loss of residents to short-term rentals. All that needs to be taken into consideration while studying ways to maintain and improve infrastructure and ecosystems. He is in favour of development, but not in favor of turning the Town key over to anyone, just because they have a fistful of cash. He fears rising interest rates will slow home builds. He is a Ward 4 resident.

Macleod has lived in Colchester since 1994. He has been watching most of the Essex Town Council meetings virtually in 2021 and 2022. He has 17-years of automotive engineering experience, working in the Metro Detroit area for GM and Chrysler in contract and service purchase, and has worked at three tier-one suppliers. He took more interest in politics when Councillor Chris Vander Doelen ran in the last election. He said he used to read his articles when he was a columnist and thought that switch was interesting. He regularly cycles on bike lanes, and supports that infrastructure. He really would not support a tax increase right now, with doctors and nurses being fired recently at the hospitals, and with Chrysler workers getting cancelled.

McDermott, a resident of Ward 1, said he put his name forward for the vacant position because he worried no one would apply and the process would have to start over. He believes it would be better to have someone from Colchester South fill the seat. He thanked the applicants for putting their names forward in wanting to serve their community. He withdrew his name, since there were so many applicants.

Councillor Sherry Bondy said the good number of candidates show people are engaged and want to make a difference. Since there were so many good applicants, she wanted to take a pause before selecting anyone to take over the position. Even though it is not an election, she did not want to bypass getting public feedback. She said waiting one more week really would not make a difference.

With two applications having withdrawn from the process, and recognizing only one could be appointed to the Ward 3 Councillor position, Councillor Morley Bowman encouraged the remaining nine individuals to run in the fall election.

“There is obviously a great deal of passion there, from those nine people,” he said.

Vander Doelen did not want to wait, as Council is scheduled to hear a presentation about short-term rentals from Administration next week, which affects Ward 3.

Councillor Kim Verbeek noted Council will hear a presentation Monday, however, a decision on how to move forward in handling short-term rentals will not be made next week. She wanted a chance to also digest all of the information she received.

A majority Council vote moved to make the decision to fill the Ward 3 seat during the regular meeting on March 7. In a recorded vote, only Vander Doelen was opposed.

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