A former township councillor has thrown her hat into the ring, becoming the third candidate in Woolwich’s mayoral race.
Pat McLean served on council for 18 years before losing her Ward 1 seat in the last election. She joins Todd Cowan in the bid to unseat incumbent Bill Strauss.
“A lot of people are feeling the need to see a change,” she said of her motivation for running. “I had a lot of support from people who encouraged me.”
Strauss, who’s been mayor since 1997, hasn’t faced voters in a decade, having been acclaimed to the position in the previous two elections.
It’s time for a change of direction, said McLean, an Elmira resident.
“There’s a sense that perhaps we’re moving ahead too quickly in terms of development. We need a growth strategy: how fast do we want to grow?”
While she hasn’t staked a position on the growth issue, she wants to see the issue more thoroughly vetted than it has been – “It’s time for the discussion.”
The pace of growth may be too quick, too slow or just right, but the township needs to consult with its residents, she said, adding Woolwich has a unique quality of life that needs to factor into discussions if it’s going to be protected.
Having lived in Elmira for more than 35 years, she’s seen several changes in the area. Once largely industrial, it shifted to a bedroom community for some years before being something of a more free-standing, diversified town.
There needs to be a balance between the township’s rural routes and enough development to provide jobs locally and housing for seniors and young families, McLean stressed.
Her time in the community, along with almost two decades of council involvement, provides her with a combination of experience and the ability to bring a new approach to the mayor’s job, McLean said.
A former executive director of Habitat for Humanity in Waterloo Region, she’s now semi-retired. She’s also the long-serving chair of the Chemtura Public Advisory Committee.
With a third person entering the fray, Strauss said he wants to hold onto the job because he’s got more to give, promising to represent the people.
For his part, Cowan, 46, welcomed the additional challenger.
“I believe it’s great that there’s more interest in local politics,” he said, noting the township needs more people to run for ward positions. “I would like to see more interest in the councillor side.”
McLean expressed the same sentiment, saying more electoral battles might boost voter turnout numbers.
In the last election, held in 2006, only 27 per cent of Woolwich’s eligible voters cast a ballot. The mayor’s position was filled by acclamation, as was Coun. Mark Bauman’s Ward 2 seat. Incumbent Murray Martin faced a light challenge in Ward 3.
The real battle was in Elmira’s Ward 1, where the vote essentially boiled down to a referendum on a twin-pad arena at what would become the Woolwich Memorial Centre. A three-way race for the two seats saw about 36 per cent of voters turn out. Newcomer Sandy Shantz, a supporter of the twin-pad arena, took 43.5 per cent of the vote, while incumbent Ruby Weber (28.53), an advocate for the arenas, just squeezed past McLean (27.93), who had spoken out against the plan.
To date, the mayor’s position is the only one up for grabs during the Oct. 25 municipal elections. Bauman and Martin are the only candidates in their respective wards. In Elmira, Weber is running again, joined by newcomer Jim David. Shantz has yet to declare her intentions.