I’m running for Sarnia City Council! You can follow along with my campaign on my Facebook page, or feel free to browse through the last fifteen years of my writing and community work on this site.
Here is a transcript of a 5 minute talk I gave at a Kiwanis lunch (it includes some of my thoughts on Mayor Mike Bradley’s sanctions.)
Below is an interview I did for Into the City.
A beautiful, creative and prosperous Sarnia is my passion, and I want that passion to be contagious.
I have been personally invested in Sarnia for nearly twenty years by way of founding successful local businesses, serving on a variety of boards, volunteering for programs and events, and by recruiting families to move to the city. Serving on Sarnia City Council would amplify my purpose to make Sarnia a leading community for quality of life, innovative practices, and sustainable economic development.
My education in social services, accomplishments in business, handling multi-million dollar budgets, and experience as a charity director have given me significant insight into organizational leadership and strategic planning. I am a strong supporter of unions and workers’ rights, public services to boost the quality of life for everyone, and scientific research to implement policy. I lean towards people before profits, listening before speaking, unions before corporations, quality before quantity, honesty before inflated promises, respect before power, and local interests before global aims. I welcome criticism, speak frankly, and enjoy the process of debate.
I was born at St. Joseph’s hospital in Sarnia and attended St. Clair Secondary School before continuing my education at York University. After receiving my undergraduate degree, I chose to move back home to help make Sarnia a great place to work and an even better place to live.
In 2006 I moved into downtown Sarnia to join with artists and local entrepreneurs. I knew that if Sarnia was going to become the kind of place that people wanted to invest in, it would start with grassroots efforts and community organizing. I have participated in the renewal of downtown Sarnia over the last ten years, and I pride myself on being an intricate part its transformation. My interests have since expanded to other parts of the city, but my focus remains unchanged.
I also started my first business in 2006, Storyboard Solutions, to help entrepreneurs and non-profit organizations communicate and live out their vision and values. (My client list included the City of Sarnia, County of Lambton, CAS, Rebound and many others). In 2013, I collaborated with friends to start Sarnia’s most beloved business, Refined Fool Brewing Company. We’ve since created over forty jobs and simultaneously distributed our product and promoted Sarnia across the province. Most recently I helped launch the Burger Rebellion and Mexico restaurants creating an additional forty-five jobs in our community.
I am currently serving on boards of organizations that I think make Sarnia a better place to live for everyone, including: Habitat for Humanity, providing housing and handyman services to hundreds of people in need each year; theStory, a downtown church that seeks to create a safe space for philosophical and spiritual exploration while also offering their building as a venue for community use; Sarnia Artwalk, an art, music and ecology festival that attracts twenty-five thousand participants yearly.
In the recent past I have also served with: Lambton Circles, helping people leave cycles of generational poverty; Festival of Good Things, an event which ran for four consecutive years celebrating the best that Lambton County has to offer.
I am proud of this track record, confident in my abilities, and resolute in my dedication to our great city. It would be an honour to serve Sarnia as a City Councillor.
This interview was for the Sarnia Municipal Elections Page
1. What do you think is the most pressing issue facing Sarnia-Lambton in the next four years?
Sarnia needs competent, cooperative, transparent and professional leaders who value seeing all citizens having a prosperous and enjoyable way of life in Sarnia. Leadership and management of our city has unfortunately become less about making steps together towards the future and been hijacked by immature and disrespectful discourse furthering an emotionally-charged culture of elitism, toxicity and unchecked management systems.
So the issue most pressing for me is changing this culture to refocus leadership’s attention to the things that matter that serve to help the population flourish. I speak to some of the things I think we need to focus on in the next question.
2. What are the key initiatives that you might propose to help us solve this issue?
I think you change cultures by being unapologetically disinterested in the old ways of doing things and confidently laying the groundwork for the future and looking forward. Some directions that I think are important for Sarnia are:
Entrepreneur Friendly – I’ve started multiple businesses in Sarnia, and I know first-hand the barriers that bureaucracy and irrelevant/outdated procedures create. Creating processes that allow for common sense approaches and people-centered solutions will give room for new businesses and local citizens to explore their potential.
Election Reform – There isn’t a perfect system, but re-evaluating our electoral process will ensure that we have a system that best serves the people. We should explore alternatives such as term limits, mayor being elected as councillor with most votes and spreading out responsibilities from just the mayor more evenly across other city/county boards and organizations.
Ongoing Waterfront Development – Continue the efforts to emphasize our waterfronts on the St. Clair River and Lake Huron for business, tourism and residents. This includes downtown development, the Old Lakeshore Right-A-Way and Canatara/Centennial amenities and making space for local businesses to start.
Contractor Responsibility and Accountability – Ongoing accountability for the contracts that the city negotiates to ensure we are getting what we paid for and are not being taken advantage of by bureaucracy and defunct relations.
Innovative Organizational Directives – Introducing changes to management and organizational structure to allow for process to drive decisions rather than personalities. Good process does not allow for incompetence to get in the way. So a focus on updating processes and structures to avoid pitfalls will be pertinent.
Social Engagement – By listening to research and all citizens voices we can move towards holistic solutions that are not based in fear. We can do this by creating space for youth, people with disabilities, indigenous communities and racial minorities to participate in process development and ensuring there is a clear communication lines to understand the full scope of the effects of the changes. There is also opportunities to invest in facilities and programming that will reduce crime, drug and alcohol related deaths and create safer neighbourhoods across the whole city.
Brownfield Sites – Sarnia has a lot of property that was developed at one point and has been abandoned or operations are coming to an end. An updated plan to make it lucrative for business to work with these sites without municipal bureaucracy will make our city attractive to new economic initiatives.
Sports – The more hospitable we can be as a city to all sorts of sports, leagues, athletes and tournaments the stronger our community we will be. I have a soft spot for arena’s, pools, courts, parks, fields, paths and lakes and ensuring that they are in prime condition to be used by all of us.
Local Events – As a long time organizer of local events, I want to see our city continue to work with event organizers to run regular and new events of all sorts.
Buck a Beer – Just kidding :)
3. What in your own personal experience has prepared you the most to be part of this solution?
My education in social services, accomplishments in business, handling multi-million dollar budgets and 70+ staff, and experience as a charity/non-profit director have given me significant insight into organizational leadership and strategic planning. I am a strong supporter of unions and workers’ rights, public services to boost the quality of life for everyone, and scientific research to implement policy. I lean towards people before profits, listening before speaking, unions before corporations, quality before quantity, honesty before inflated promises, respect before power, and local interests before global aims. I welcome criticism, speak frankly, and enjoy the process of debate.
The Bonus Question:
We are currently in a global crisis, with a media-worthy lack of competent political leadership. Here at home, over the past four years in Sarnia, we have also seen our share of political turmoil. If you are elected, how do you think you might help positively influence this negative trend?
I feel like the answers to the previous three questions was just a large answer for this question. I am disinterested in being stuck in whatever turmoil from the past plagued us and want to pour my energy into contributing to politics that is rich with integrity, healthy debate and thoughtful organizational development. To say it succinctly, I have very little energy or time for things that don’t get us closer to a better, safer and healthier city for everyone and you won’t see me getting caught up into things that will distract me from my vision of a flourishing city.