New faces on council likely
With the municipal election coming up in October, some current members of council are looking forward to running again—maybe even for mayor—while others are stepping aside.
Coun. Andrew Hallikas, in his second four-year term, said his name will be on the ballot this fall.
“The work never stops. There’s a great deal of work to be done,” added Coun. Hallikas, though noting he hasn’t decided at this point if he’ll run for councillor or mayor.
Coun. Hallikas said he’s hoping to see new faces amongst the candidates this election.
“I am really hoping we get a response from the community in terms of people who are interested in helping Fort Frances move forward,” he remarked.
“These are pretty tough times and there’s a lot of talent out there.
“I really would like to see a better balance on council that reflects the demographics of our community,” added Coun. Hallikas, referring to a balance of men and women on council, as well as representatives of different age groups and from the Métis and First Nations’ populations.
“You can never predict what people are going to do but I’m hoping we can encourage people interested in running to put their name forward and step up.”
Coun. Ken Perry, who first joined council in 2008, confirmed he will be running again, but wouldn’t specify whether it would be for councillor or mayor.
“I have given it much thought,” he noted. “I will be running for a position.
“I think I have lots to offer the town yet,” Coun. Perry added. “I think I can do a lot to help this town, and I am not going to miss out on the opportunity.”
Mayor Roy Avis, who has been at the helm since 2006 and a councillor for nine years before that, said it’s too soon to declare his intention to run again.
“I won’t comment on that at this present time,” he said in an interview in late December.
“I probably won’t declare until June or July.
“I know you can put your name forward right now, but I believe it is a little too soon to consider that,” Mayor Avis added.
“Not that I want to have a wait-and-see approach, I just think it makes more sense to [decide] in June or July,” he reasoned.
Coun. Paul Ryan, in his second term on council, also said he’ll wait a while before deciding to run.
“It’s too early. I haven’t really decided,” he noted.
“We have some real issues with the town as far as loss of taxes,” he added. “I want to see how it goes this year.
“We’re looking at this for the next two or three years. Right up to 2016, we’ll be losing taxes from the mill as they lower the assessment value,” Coun. Ryan explained.
“It’s gong to be a tough time, a real tough time,” he warned. “I’d like to see how that goes this year and make my decision later on.”
Coun. Ryan said the town has never gone through this before, and that it’s a crucial time.
“You hate to cut services but you also hate to raise taxes to the extreme,” he remarked. “They’re at the extreme right now.
“We’re in a tough spot here. A real tough spot,” he reiterated.
Coun. Doug Kitowski, who was appointed by council last March, also said it’s too early to know if he’ll run in the fall election.
“I haven’t given it any thought yet,” he revealed.
“It’s pretty early on in life and I’m still learning the system,” Coun. Kitowski added. “I am finding it very, very interesting.
“It’s a learning experience, believe you me,” he stressed. “It operates quite different than a business does, I can assure you.
“But I am enjoying it. It’s good.”
Coun. Kitowski credited the mayor and council, as well as the administrative staff, for helping him with the steep learning curve over the past nine months.
“They’re good people there, you know,” he said. “I’ve lived here all my life and I had no idea how the heck it ran.”
Meanwhile, Coun. John Albanese, who has served on council since 2005 and previously served for two-consecutive terms from 1985-91, said he’s leaning toward not seeking re-election.
“At this time, I don’t know,” he admitted. “I don’t think so, especially with my health problems I’ve experienced in 2013.
“I have to be careful. I cannot commit myself at this time
“I have some health issues I have to address before I say yes or no,” Coun. Albanese added. “I am taking it one day at a time, one hour at a time.
“I love the politics, to work for the citizens of Fort Frances, but sometimes you have to look after yourself,” he reasoned.
Another person whose name probably won’t be on the ballot this fall is Coun. Rick Wiedenhoeft.
“My intention right now is not to run again,” he said last Thursday.
“It’s not that I don’t find it interesting and stimulating and rewarding,” he stressed. “But it’s been 11 years now this coming year and I think that maybe somebody else could step forward.
“The only way that I would run again is if there wasn’t enough people who came forward to put their name on the ballot, and I don’t think that’s going to happen,” Coun. Wiedenhoeft added.
“I think there’s lots of people out there who think they can do a better job than what we’ve done,” he remarked. “[But] I don’t think they’re aware of the circumstances that we had to go through.
“Everybody in a dozen coffee klatches has got a better idea of how we can run this town,” Coun. Wiedenhoeft noted.
“Let them step forward and put their name out.”
Coun. Wiedenhoeft said he would love to go south for six weeks or so during the winter months, especially since his wife, Linda, has cold-triggered asthma and can’t breathe in the cold.
But currently his position on council doesn’t allow that.
“I don’t think you can adjudicate situations from afar,” he reasoned. “I think you have to be there.
“You have to get all the facts, you have to hear all of the opinions of the other councillors before you make a decision.
“You can’t do things down in Mexico or down in Arizona or down in Florida,” Coun. Wiedenhoeft reiterated. “You have to be here.”
Anyone interested in running for mayor, council, the two school boards, or as a representative for one of the three unincorporated areas Rainy River West, Central and East) on the Rainy River District Social Services Administration Board must file their papers at the Civic Centre prior to 2 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 12.
Withdrawal of any nominations also must be made by 2 p.m. on Sept. 12.
Nominees must pay a $200 fee to run for head of council (mayor) or $100 for any other position (i.e., councillor or trustee).
They also must be a Canadian citizen aged 18 or older, and either be a property owner, someone who leases property, or the spouse of someone who owns/leases property.
Election day will be held Oct. 27. As in past years, polls will open from 10 a.m.-8 p.m.
But the town also once again will be using a vote-by-mail system in the upcoming election.
The first day of the new council term will be Dec. 1.
Municipal terms are for four years, after being increased from three just prior to the 2006 election.