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Wade Mills to be acclaimed as Shelburne’s next mayor, talks plans with the Free Press

August 9, 2018   ·   0 Comments

Written By MIKE PICKFORD

The race to become Shelburne’s next mayor is already over.

After incumbent Ken Bennington spectacularly withdrew his nomination papers back in July, just weeks after initially submitted them, it became clear there was to be a new face at the helm following October’s municipal election.

In a strange twist of fate, the community now knows who will take over the big seat on council, a full two months ahead of schedule. Wade Mills, who is on the cusp of completing his first term on Shelburne council, will be acclaimed as mayor after running unopposed.

Speaking to the Free Press this week, Mr. Mills admitted it came as a surprise when, at 2:01 p.m. on July 27, it became apparent that nobody in the community would stand against him in his bid to become Shelburne’s next mayor. He knew he wouldn’t face competition from Mayor Bennington, having spoken to the 20-year political veteran ahead of launching his own bid for mayor, but, in the back of his mind, he maybe suspected an 11th hour bid coming in from elsewhere.

“It wasn’t at all how I expected it to go down,” Mr. Mills said. “But at least we have a competitive race for deputy mayor and for council.”

Running for mayor wasn’t always on Wade’s agenda heading into this year’s election, but, he said, encouragement from local residents coupled with a sense of duty to lead the municipality through this “critical juncture” were enough to provoke a change of plans.

Further explaining his decision, Mr. Mills expressed his belief that Shelburne was approaching something of a crossroads, stating the decisions this next council will be making over the next four years will have a lasting impact on the long-term future of the community.

“Most politicians, when running for office, talk about the fact that this is a consequential election, but honestly, I do believe that this is one of those elections,” Mr. Mills said. “There are so many pressures coming at us from different directions, we may not have a second chance to get these decisions right. That played into my decision to a large degree.”

The local lawyer added, “If we’re facing these kind of critical decisions, it’s going to take a certain skillset and certain style of leadership to navigate us through those difficult waters.”

Wade has been encouraged seeing the number of “quality” candidates who have stepped forward, signalling their intent to secure a position on council. Steve Anderson and Dan Sample, both current members of council, will duke it out for the position of deputy mayor, after incumbent Geoff Dunlop announced his retirement. At the council level, only Walter Benotto will seek re-election. He will face competition from Althea Casamento, Lindsay Wegener, Kyle Fegan, Mikal Archer, Lynda Buffer, Shane Hall, James Hodder and Len Guchardi.

“I’ve had the opportunity to meet all of the candidates at this point, some I know better than others, but what encourages me the most is that we have a pool of candidates who are reasonably young, all of them seem energized and enthusiastic about the future of this town,” Mr. Mills said. “Whichever way the voters decide to go on Oct. 22, we’re going to have a council who is ready to go to work on day one and get the job done.”

That job, Wade says, is for council to ensure it is putting the community in the best position possible to prosper moving forward. The fastest growing small community in Ontario is facing several issues, and, subsequently, key decisions as it attempts to handle that growth. The main decision will be deciding the future of the Shelburne Police Service.

It’s no secret that the municipality has requested a costing from the OPP. Faced with potentially having to fund a new multi-million dollar police station in the very near future, council decided to assess its options before committing to such an unprecedented expense. Wade was one of the loudest proponents for seeking a costing from the OPP, but, contrary to popular belief in the community, he says he has not yet made a final decision regarding the future of policing in the community.

“The truth is I don’t have a position yet. I pushed long and hard to get a costing done, but that was because I believed, and continue to believe, that we as elected officials have a responsibility to look at all of our available options before committing millions of dollars to a new station,” Mr. Mills said. “We don’t know what the costing proposal will be from the OPP yet, we won’t know until early next year. At this point, I’m very much keeping an open mind.”

He says the town needs to look into ways to boost its industrial and commercial sectors to catch up to the “tremendous” increase in residential properties in Shelburne over the past couple of years. He’s keen to ensure that Shelburne doesn’t simply become a ‘bedroom community’ for those with jobs in the GTA.

Adding to its industrial and commercial tax base would allow the municipality to ensure it can keep up with the growth and not only maintain, but build on its existing infrastructure.

“Financial sustainability is going to be a big thing for this next council. With the growth pressures we’ve seen, it’s added to the pressures we were already seeing on our infrastructure,” Wade said. “We’re going to have to crunch some numbers and put a long-term financial plan into place to make sure we’re able to handle all future growth.”

Towards the end of the interview, following a question from this reporter, Wade touched on his relationship with his father – current mayor of Mulmur Paul Mills. He noted that he’s had “sort of a front row seat”, thanks to his dad, to see what the political landscape is like in Dufferin County. He’s had the opportunity to discuss with his father exactly what is expected from the mayor of a community, noting “even though I am going to be new to the role, it’s not like I’m walking into it without a sense for what I’m getting myself into.”

Should Paul be successful in his bid for re-election in Mulmur, both father and son will have a seat on Dufferin County council – something Wade admitted would be “really neat”. The pair currently serve together on the Shelburne and District Fire Board, but representing their respective communities at the county level would be a regional first.

While that sidebar drew some interest from Mr. Mills, he noted his main concern, as has been the case for the past four years, is ensuring the community of Shelburne is afforded every opportunity to achieve its potential. His vision over the next four years, as he mentioned earlier, was ensuring that council gets a handle on the growth the municipality is experiencing and uses it to build the community in such a way that anyone would be proud to call it home.

As for what the public can expect to see from Wade on a personal level, he noted he’s a down to earth, family focused individual who is committed to making a difference in his community.

“What people can expect to see from me is somebody at the helm that has a clear vision for where this town needs to be. I have long roots in this community, but I’ve also spent time outside of Shelburne, which I think brings a different perspective,” Wade said. “I think that’s important when you consider the sorts of decision making processes and approach I’ll bring to the job.”

He concluded, “I think I can relate to people who have lived here their whole lives, but also have a fairly clear sense of what has brought new residents to this town. I have the ability to relate to both of those groups. Hopefully I’ll act as a bit of a unifying force to bring the town together over the next four years so that we can tackle some of the issues we’re going to face together as a community.”

 

         

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