Todd Cowan has been watching the goings-on at Woolwich council with an increasingly skeptical eye, not always impressed with what he’s seen. In launching his candidacy for township mayor, he wants others to see changes are needed.
“I’ve been thinking about doing this for a long time. As I watch the way township council operates, I see the need for a new vision,” said Cowan, a former Queen’s Park insider. “I’ve been around politics for a lot of years. We have a lot of potential here, but we need some new energy.”
Watching council bounce around on contentious issues such as the development of Victoria Glen park, a proposed biogas facility in Elmira and numerous gravel pit applications, his frustration with the lack of public input finally prompted him to run.
He’ll be taking on longtime incumbent Bill Strauss, who was acclaimed in the last two municipal elections and faced only a marginal challenge in 2000.
Noting the challenges facing Woolwich have grown over the years, Cowan said this week the township can no longer make do with reactive leadership dealing with issues strictly on a piecemeal basis.
“We need to be proactive. We should have policies in place rather than waiting for things to happen then reacting with a lack of leadership.”
A policy that says the township will protect and enhance green spaces, for instance, would preclude putting the public through fights such as the one over Victoria Glen, he said.
More pressingly, he argued, council needs to take charge of the agenda rather than relying on its staff to set the pace. That has led to an explosion in costs, staffing numbers and taxes and fees, and less support for community groups. Taxpayers aren’t always getting good value for their money, he said, promising to bring a results-based spending approach to a review of every department’s budget.
“I want to change the attitude at the township – the public comes first.”
Also in his platform is a push for high-tech business in the township. Given its proximity to Waterloo and the number of professionals and knowledge workers who live here, Woolwich should be getting a piece of the pie.
“We need to get out there and market Woolwich. If we can attract one high-tech company, others will see the advantage of Woolwich and they’ll come along too,” said Cowan. “It’s up to the mayor to be out there marketing the place.”
As a member of executive on the Business Improvement Area committee in Elmira, Cowan said he has a keen interest in the success of businesses in the township.
Cowan, 46, and his wife Joanne have three children, ages 12, 10 and 6. Raised on the family farm near Tilbury, Ont., he’s called Elmira home for more than a decade.
He’s a business owner and general manager of Martha’s Mixes Wild Bird Centre in Elmira. Prior to that, he spent 10 years working in senior roles for provincial politicians, specifically on policies concerning safe schools, crime prevention, government efficiencies and Small Business Ontario.
Currently, Cowan is a board member of the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council, a member of the St. Teresa of Avila parish council and Knights of Columbus in Elmira.
More information about Cowan’s platform can be found on his website at www.vision4woolwich.com. He’s seeking public input on a proposed five-point action plan.
Woolwich voters join other Ontarians at the polls for the municipal election on Oct. 25.