With just a week to go in the nomination period, things are finally starting to heat up in Woolwich: for the first time in more than a decade, there are races in every ward.
The latest entrants are Julie-Anne Herteis in Ward 1 and Eric Schwindt in Ward 2.
Herteis joins incumbent Ruby Weber and newcomer Jim David in the battle for the two Elmira seats up for grabs Oct. 25.
“I heard the call for change and decided it was time to stand up and do something,” said Herteis of what prompted her to enter the race. “I think we need a fresh start.”
Elmira has seen significant growth in its population, with many young families settling into the new subdivisions, and it’s time for council to be more active in shaping the future of the community, she said.
“We’ve got a wonderful community here – we need to keep things in balance. We don’t want to grow so fast that the infrastructure can’t handle it.”
Council needs to discuss issues and policies in more detail to determine which course is best for the residents and the future of the township, she explained.
If elected, she would take a consultative approach, asking people for their input and advocating on their behalf, at the council table but also at the regional level and beyond. That would include working to take advantage of Woolwich’s proximity to the so-called technology triangle.
Herteis, 46, is a self-employed business consultant. She and her husband Ron have one child; they’ve lived in Elmira for 10 years. Born in Manitoba, she’s lived in Waterloo Region since she was a child. She’s a past president of the Elmira Lawn Bowling Club and a member of the Elmira Theatre Company executive, among other community affiliations.
For David, the emergence of another candidate to make it a race in Ward 1 is precisely why he got involved in the first place.
“I just wanted an election, more than anything. To make sure [candidates] don’t get there on a free pass,” said the 52-year-old Elmira man, the first candidate to file papers for next month’s municipal election.
He advocates a strong role for council as the guardian of the public interest. On issues such as gravel pits and the proposed biogas plant in Elmira, for instance, councillors should first and foremost stand up for their constituents’ needs, he said.
“The rights of the residents have to be protected at all costs.”
This is the first run at political office for David, who has lived in town for 15 years with his wife Kim Dixon and two children. He’s an employee at Emerson EGS Electrical Group plant in Elmira.
In Ward 2, 10-year incumbent Mark Bauman, acclaimed to the position in the last election, faces a challenge from Eric Schwindt.
Schwindt, 38, is running on a platform of fiscal responsibility and a more robust, outgoing council. The goal is to be more assertive in favour of the residents, he said, noting council has been too passive, with much of its agenda dictated by staff.
“Staff tends to lead– that’s the wrong way around.”
He sees a stronger role for councillors as a voice for Woolwich at Waterloo Region and Queen’s Park. On the issue of light rail transit, for example, he said the region is ready to bet too much money on a single project when there are other priorities.
“We need to watch our finances. We are in a new reality today, and need to manage our finances accordingly. As citizens and taxpayers of Woolwich, we need our township to use our tax dollars more efficiently. And that responsibility lies with council.”
Locally, the township has spent a considerable amount of money on capital projects, perhaps too much at once. Now, the key is to manage those facilities wisely, to make sure operating and program expenses don’t get out of hand, said Schwindt.
“Sometimes less is more in government,” he said. “We shouldn’t be trying to do things if we really don’t need them.”
A lifelong resident of Woolwich, Schwindt lives with his wife Stephanie and three daughters on a farm north of Elmira. He currently serves as president of the Waterloo County Pork Producers Association, secretary of the Ontario Pork Industry Council and director on the Ontario Swine Health Advisory Board.
Other newcomers to the municipal election scene include Maryhill’s Bonnie Bryant, who’s running against longtime incumbent Murray Martin in Ward 3, and mayoral candidate Todd Cowan, who’s challenging incumbent Bill Strauss and former councillor Pat McLean.
Each of the first-time candidates has pointed to a feeling of change in the air, citing feedback from other residents in the township.
“The overwhelming response is that we need to have an election to get new voices heard,” said Schwindt. “It’s nice to hear people are open to change right now.”