Meet your candidates in Tehkummah Township

Ron Hierons, candidate, Tehkummah reeve

TEHKUMMAH—“Strong leadership to catch up today so we can move forward for tomorrow,” says Ron Hierons, reeve candidate in Tehkummah Township.

Mr. Hierons currently serves as a councillor in the municipality. He has owned his farm in Tehkummah for 20 years. Mr. Hierons ran an industrial construction company for 23 years, which he says has given him the skills to work in the top spot on council.

“It was a corporation. The township is a corporation and I think we could move this forth in a positive direction with some good planning,” he says.

The first goal for Mr. Hierons is to rein in control of the council meetings, such as putting a time limit on speakers.

“I’d like to conduct the council meetings in a professional manner and get good productivity out of them,” he says, citing as an example that, “often people can go on for 55 minutes and nothing comes out of the conversation other than we wasted 55 minutes of the meeting.” He adds that an efficient council could suffice with one meeting per month and save taxpayers the extra expense.

Part of the productivity piece includes taking action on issues when it is required.

“Stuff just seems to go by the wayside; nothing seems to get followed through with what they decided on,” he says.

As an example, he says council received a health and safety report from the public engineering department about the municipal garage, specifically about the adjacent old schoolhouse being full of mold. He says the South Baymouth marina also needs work that has yet to be undertaken.

“Not one thing’s been done. That should be taken care of,” he says.

Mr. Hierons also says roads are an ongoing concern and they need to be ditched to allow for drainage.

“There’s lots of issues that need to be addressed, but we can’t do them all at once because of our small tax base,” he says. “We can’t do it all at once, but we can do a little bit.”

The Rogers Creek bridge is also a concern. Mr. Hierons says the day after it was shut down in 2015, he obtained quotes for a new bridge but, “everything was turned down at council.” He adds that in both Assiginack and Tehkummah, current candidates seem fully in favour of the bridge work compared to the negative response his proposal had previously received and he wonders if those mindsets are election-motivated.

“I’m a transparent guy, and I want to move it forward. That’s what this township needs,” he says.

David Jaggard, candidate, Tehkummah reeve

TEHKUMMAH—“Encouraging kindness, unity and cooperation,” David Jaggard says, referring to the overall theme of his campaign to become reeve of Tehkummah Township.

The retired teacher has served once before as a councillor, between 2002 and 2006. He says he has been involved in school board negotiations and is familiar with meeting procedures from his time there. He is also on the board of the Manitoulin Community Church in Tehkummah.

If elected, says Mr. Jaggard, “the main thing is to make council run more smoothly so there’s less contention, better cooperation within the council itself. Also, to have more civil council meetings.”

Mr. Jaggard says that, if elected, he will continue working towards issues of main concern to residents, such as getting the landfill back up to code.

“Tax dollars have to be spent wisely so that more benefit comes to the township from the taxes that people pay,” he says, adding that since he is not a current councillor, he is not familiar with things such as the town’s current finances.

“The township has spent so much money on legal fees that, my understanding is, the township has very little money to work with,” he says.

Mr. Jaggard says a very important initiative for him is, “the relationship between council and the public, so people can see that councillors are actually working for them and not working against each other.”

He says he also hopes to improve attitudes towards the township. “Changing the way people perceive it so everyone you talk to doesn’t talk as though it’s a place where there’s so much arguing going on; that people are civil here.”

“It goes back to what I’ve said before—I am hoping to bring some better feelings within council.”

Mr. Jaggard says the treatment of employees has to improve as well.

“People who work for the township shouldn’t feel like they’re in danger of being fired because someone doesn’t like them,” he says. “People have felt that their jobs are in danger and have been harassed until they have quit in the past.”

“Nobody needs that treatment in their life,” he says.

Mr. Jaggard says running a township is a collaborative effort, and in order to move forward, Tekhummah needs people who can work as a team.

“I am very concerned about who gets onto council with me. I need people who can get along, who can work together as a group and not have constant infighting and I need people who can forget all the insults that they’ve had before and move ahead,” he says.

Paul Bowerman, candidate, Tehkummah council

TEHKUMMAH—“I’m prepared to bring the documented truth to the table on all matters,” says Paul Bowerman, Tehkummah Township council candidate.

Mr. Bowerman was born and raised in Tehkummah. He has been a councillor for eight years and has been a volunteer firefighter and first responder. He is part of the museum board, recreation committee and the Michael’s Bay Historical Society.

Roads, budgets and compliance are the most important issues council has to address, he says.

“We’ve got to get the MTO (Ministry of Transportation of Ontario) to stick to their promises and obligations,” says Mr. Bowerman, referring to the Highway 542 detours that have taken a toll on township roads.

He adds that the Rogers Creek bridge has been closed since 2015 and “nothing’s been done to put it back in service.”

Mr. Bowerman says compliance issues such as the landfill and the 2017 electrical audit — brought back to the council table during the September 18 meeting — need to be addressed immediately.

“We need to deal with all unfinished reports. Electrical? That’s just a drop in the bucket,” he says.

“Our staff needs the equipment, tools and training to get the projects done; I think that’s been a negative in the past,” says Mr. Bowerman.

Preparing a well-considered budget is also top-of-mind for Mr. Bowerman.

“Taxes skyrocketed in 2018 and I can’t tell you why,” he says. “The last clear budget I’m comfortable with was in 2016 when there were financial statements presented to us in April, which was the base for our budget.”

He says reports to that extent have not since been provided, such as the auditor’s report that was due this year but which has still not surfaced.

“We need a committee that keeps it credible through the whole process. We can’t afford to have it get out of control,” he says.

James Fawcett, candidate, Tehkummah council

TEHKUMMAH—“Council has got to be on track, whoever goes to the table,” says James Fawcett, Tehkummah township councillor candidate.

Mr. Fawcett has been living on Manitoulin Island for eight years, with all of this time spent in Tehkummah. He has been a member of the North Bay Kiwanis Club board of directors and was involved with the Terry McKerow Cat Scan fund—a fundraising group that supports the costs associated with CT scan machines in the North Bay area. He says he helped to raise and invest $10 million to create an annual fund for ongoing operations.

Mr. Fawcett says the state of affairs of Tehkummah roads, the Roger’s Creek bridge and other bridges is a major concern.

“We need to repair and replace the other municipal bridges as they come along,” he says.

Mr. Fawcett also says a waste management plan is crucial to ensure the ongoing troubles at the landfill can be resolved.

He acknowledges that work needs to be done on the township garage and equipment like the town’s backhoe and grader will need replacement.

“Maybe we can enter into a joint venture with another township to share our equipment,” he says, indicating his ideas on a way the township may be able to save costs on the new purchases.

Mr. Fawcett says the first step the new council should take is to establish priorities.

“The council has to get together and do a wish list, a want list and a need list. And first of all, they have to look at what they need,” says Mr. Fawcett.

He says that over the past three years, “nothing’s been done” in the township.

“If elected, I promise to give my all to my elected position and make sure that all taxpayer concerns are addressed at the council meetings,” says Mr. Fawcett.

Jose Garcia, candidate, Tehkummah council

TEHKUMMAH—“I stand for community,” says Jose Garcia, candidate for council in Tehkummah Township.

Mr. Garcia is a member of the Ontario Marketing Board’s Northern Committee. He has also worked for the Ministry of Labour as an advocate for injured workers for 20 years. He says he has lived in the township since 1973.

“I’m a person who comes from the heart and I’m very committed now in giving back to a community that has given me so much,” he says.

Mr. Garcia says he was inspired to run based on the 55 recommendations report from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, which the township received in April 2018.

“The report speaks really clearly. This has been going on for a while and it needs to be addressed,” he says.

Mr. Garcia is determined to make Tehkummah a destination for travellers, given the large amount of people who enter the Island in South Baymouth and drive through the township. He hopes to do that in partnership with the Indigenous communities in the area, “who have moved in leaps and bounds in developing the tourism industry here on Manitoulin.”

He also says there are ongoing issues that need to be dealt with.

“It’s issues like the maintenance and upgrades of the roads—these are not things that I’ve invented, this is what members of the community are very concerned about. Why haven’t they been dealt with in an adequate manner?” he says.

He also says meetings must be conducted according to official rules, regulations and procedures that are already established.

Mr. Garcia adds that he has a wide network of contacts, both local and international, that could be assets in improving Tehkummah’s standing as a municipality.

“I have had such a diversified existence. I am so blessed by the life that I’ve had. It’s time to give back,” he says.

Lorie Leeson, candidate, Tehkummah council

TEHKUMMAH—“We’re all in this together, rebuilding a township we can be proud of,” says Lorie Leeson, a candidate for council in Tehkummah Township.

Ms. Leeson is currently serving her third straight council term in Tehkummah and is also the township representative for the Manitoulin Tourism Association. She has helped coach Special Olympics teams on the Island.

“I would like to see things run smoothly, with respect for each other, and work together as a team to get things back in order in Tehkummah,” she says.

Ms. Leeson says she wants to put the recreation committee back in place to work on initiatives like the outdoor rink. She says surplus fundraising from recreation initiatives could be reinvested in important services like family resources.

Roads and the landfill are an ongoing concern and she says everyone needs to be familiar with rules and policies to ensure the council can make forward progress on those fronts. The roads department will also need new equipment that is more reliable to ensure more work can be done and she says the fire department will likely need assistance in getting a new vehicle. This will both enhance community safety and support the mutual aid firefighting agreement for neighbouring municipalities, she says.

“I’ve never seen such great volunteerism as this township,” says Ms. Leeson, adding that efficiency is also important.

“Community groups need to work together—it’s a small place; if you put on too many events you can’t attend them all. We should work together and share the profits,” she says.

“I’m not afraid of hard work, and I completely believe in honesty and transparency,” says Ms. Leeson.

“It’s not a popularity contest. I hope people will vote for the people who they know are genuine and will be there for the good of the township and all the people who live in it.”

Karen Gerrard, candidate, Tehkummah council

TEHKUMMAH—“I can bring about the change that’s needed,” says Karen Gerrard, a council candidate for Tehkummah Township.

Ms. Gerrard has been a municipal councillor in other regions in the past and has sat on economic development corporations in Onaping Falls and Sables-Spanish River. She has been involved with the district social services administrative board and a number of non-profit groups like Massey Agricultural Society and the Espanola Little Theatre. She was previously employed by Tehkummah as the clerk-treasurer.

She says she wants to increase public involvement through regular town hall meetings, especially for matters like budget planning. She wants to do a line-by-line budget breakdown, find alternative sources of revenue, and strengthen partnerships with neighbouring municipalities.

“Municipal management matters,” she says. “That means a municipality is a corporation and the council for this corporation needs to be well-versed in what it means to manage a corporation. Every taxpayer, every resident is a shareholder of this corporation.”

“If you want to play the game, you have to have a set of rules,” she says. “Without rules, there is chaos. Where there is chaos, there is tyranny.”

To better manage the township, Ms. Gerrard says she will establish guidelines for administration to fully understand the policies they can abide by for governance. She also says the township needs a multi-year plan to address the work that needs to be completed.

“I provide my guidance based on my experiences as a councillor and as an administrator. I will be their advocate for accountable and transparent governance. Closed meetings are not to be used as a tool to keep the public in the dark,” she says.

Finally, she says, “we need to invest in what we have,” which includes municipal assets like parks and boat launches.

“The bottom line is to make Tehkummah a place to be proud of,” says Ms. Gerrard.

Rick Gordon, candidate, Tehkummah council

TEHKUMMAH—“Character, honesty and trust. That’s what I bring,” says Rick Gordon, candidate for councillor in Tehkummah Township.

In addition to his service with the Royal Canadian Navy, Mr. Gordon had worked in a factory in St. Catharines for 40 years before moving up to Tehkummah. He says factory life has taught him some key political lessons. “You learn how to deal with people and separate facts from lies in a union environment,” says Mr. Gordon.

“There was a big hullabaloo about roads; my road right now is better than I’ve ever seen it. I will stand behind the workforce of the township,” he says. “There’s too much bullying going on.”

Mr. Gordon says he wants to separate Manitoulin from the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation’s (MPAC) Sudbury assessment office because housing prices cannot be directly compared between the two; because of that, Manitoulin prices are not representative of their value.

Honesty and integrity are words Mr. Gordon uses to describe his character.

“I don’t owe anybody anything. No favours, no nothing, and I don’t take crap,” he says.

“The way things are right now, I just don’t like people who don’t stand behind what they say,” says Mr. Gordon. “If I say something, I’ll stand behind it. If I’m wrong, I’ll admit it.”

Mr. Gordon says he tries not to take life too seriously.

“I make people laugh, I was the class clown. I’m sarcastic, funny,” he says. “I’m a happy-go-lucky guy.”

“I want to keep taxes down, to try to bring calmness and friendliness and niceness back to the township,” says Mr. Gordon.

“I had to do something. I couldn’t handle it anymore, what’s going on. It’s sickening,” he says.

Those tensions are bound to make the campaign race a tough one, but Mr. Gordon says the voters will know which candidates will serve them best.

Michael McKenzie, candidate, Tehkummah council

TEHKUMMAH—“Get the job done, get it done right,” says Michael McKenzie, candidate for Tehkummah council.

Mr. McKenzie has been sitting on the current council since January when he was sworn in to fill a vacant seat. He says he previously served on council over a decade ago, as well.

Getting the township back into a good financial position is the main issue for Mr. McKenzie.

“There’s been a lot that’s been mismanaged. Overspending, planning on using money we didn’t have, misapplications being filed—there are many things we can do better in this township, and we have to,” stresses Mr. McKenzie.

“We are in the worst financial shape, to my knowledge, the township has ever been in,” he says, adding that council is a collaborative effort.

“Don’t get me wrong, if I’m elected, I’m one person on council. I can’t do anything by myself,” he says. “We have to work together as a group, not work against each other.”

Mr. McKenzie says he does not get frustrated or overwhelmed easily and that running for a personal agenda does not work in any township.

“You have to go in for the township’s best interest, not your own,” he says. “I have no personal interest other than seeing this township go ahead.”

Mr. McKenzie says he will bring integrity to move council forward and that he will advocate for getting qualified people into jobs and supporting them.

Following policies is important to Mr. McKenzie.

“Things have to be done a certain way because those are the rules, obligations and whatnot. You can’t help that,” he says.

Mr. McKenzie says he wants to put an end to the personal squabbles that seem to constantly reappear.

“I’d like to see a stop to all the stupidity, the negativity and actually move our township ahead,” he says. “I just know I can help this township, with the right people elected.”

Mary Johnston, candidate, Tehkummah council

TEHKUMMAH—“I just want to do what I can for a place that I love,” says Mary Johnston, a candidate for councillor in the municipality of Tehkummah.

Ms. Johnston is from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, and moved to Tehkummah on her 59th birthday. “I fell in love with the place, and I moved from one island to another,” she says. Ms. Johnston’s background is in accounting but she later pursued a passion for cooking. She has volunteered with United Church Women (UCW) dinners and teas, helped organize the Christmas in Tehkummah market as well as a luncheon. She also serves on the library board.

Ms. Johnston says the decision to run for council was one that she carefully considered.

“I’m 74 so I didn’t do this lightly,” she says. “I want to cooperate with council to clean up the mess that’s been made.”

“I just got so upset, so annoyed that I figured, maybe, perhaps a little common sense would help. And I have a lot of that,” says Ms. Johnston. When The Expositor asked what particular issues she really wants to tackle, Ms. Johnston simply said, “everything. The town is a mess.”

Ms. Johnston says she believes in collaborating to make the biggest impact possible.

“You have to work as a unit of councillors and reeve and employees to sort out what’s happened here. It’s not a job for one single person,” she says.

As for this election, Ms. Johnston says her work ethic and personal values will encourage voters to elect her.

“I’m a worker, for sure, and I speak my mind. I do not lie and anybody who’s dealt with me in the past—some of them get upset because when you tell the truth, people don’t like it,” says. Ms. Johnston. “I’m not looking for popularity. I’m looking to help straighten out this township.”

Eric Russell, candidate, Tehkummah council

TEHKUMMAH—“I’m here for the people of Tehkummah,” says Eric Russel, a council candidate in Tehkummah Township.

Mr. Russell is currently Tehkummah’s reeve. Prior to that he served a term as a councillor. He is also on the Michael’s Bay Historical Society. The Russell family has lived in Tehkummah for 150 years, with his grandfathers being among the first pioneers in the township.

“This is our roots. We’d just like to improve it; you always have to keep improving,” says Mr. Russell.

He says recreation projects are a major focus of his. He says the township is trying to make an outdoor skating rink for the winter that could be used for basketball in the summer in addition to the free baseball program.

“We have that blog going around now, where they comment they’re against free baseball. Why are they against free baseball?” he says, referring to the Tehkummah Blog, for which nobody has publicly claimed ownership.

“This township has been faced with many problems in the last few years. I promise to work with councillors to ensure no problems like this ever happen again,” he says, mentioning a push to bring in a lumberjack competition that has stalled.

Ultimately, says Mr. Russell, any projects are constrained to the funding the township has available.

“We need money to fix the roads,” he says. “We’ve done the fire hall and government road bridge, but they were all done with provincial and federal funding.”

To that end, he says it is important that funding requests are filled out properly to secure grants, and that an economic developer may help to grow the township.

“I’d just like to see things be more positive,” he says. “If anyone has any questions, I try to answer them. I don’t make up lies and I’m not against free baseball—make sure you get that in there!”