Hud­son mayor loo­king to brigh­ter fu­ture

L'Etoile - - DIVERTISSEMENT -

Pre­vost, who will ce­le­brate his 76th bir­th­day —HUD­SON in May, ad­mits he is consi­de­red a “neo­phyte” in a town that marks its lo­cals by the num­ber of ge­ne­ra­tions in which they’ve li­ved in Hud­son.

“I mo­ved here in 2004 so I’m as green as they come,” he said with a laugh.

A see­min­gly ea­sy­going man, Pre­vost has not had much to laugh about la­te­ly.

Bor­ro­wing U.S. pre­sident-elect Do­nald Trump’s ana­lo­gy, he said his ad­mi­nis­tra­tion was hi­red to clean up the swamp. “And we’ve been clea­ning it, and it’s not fun.”

As­ked if it’s now clean? Pre­vost said, “It’s a lot clea­ner. I can’t say we’re one-hun­dred percent done be­cause there’s more to come.”

He will do as much as he can un­til this year’s ge­ne­ral elec­tion, but the afo­re­men­tio­ned health is­sues mean Pre­vost is not li­ke­ly to seek re-elec­tion.

“My plan was to re­run but un­for­tu­na­te­ly my health got in the way... I think it’s wise to leave the po­si­tion open to ano­ther can­di­date that’s heal­thier,” he said.

“If I had my dru­thers there’s no­thing I’d ra­ther do. When I com­mit­ted my­self to this ven­ture it was real­ly for two terms.”

ETHICS AL­LE­GA­TIONS

Pre­vost ad­mits he was blind­si­ded in Ju­ly, 2016 when Rob Spen­ser, a for­mer town coun­cil­lor who has since mo­ved from Hud­son, ta­bled 151 al­le­ga­tions against him with MAMROT, Que­bec’s mi­nis­try of mu­ni­ci­pal af­fairs. “It was a ve­ry nas­ty kind of thing... it came out of left field,” he said.

“Most of the things were pure fig­ments of the ima­gi­na­tion.”

And though he was ful­ly exo­ne­ra­ted af­ter going to court in Oc­to­ber, 2016 in a 16-page de­ci­sion that dis­mis­sed “each and eve­ry ac­cu­sa­tion,” Pre­vost said the ex­pe­rience took a toll.

“When you get ac­cu­sed of all kinds of stuff it weighs on you... it wei­ghed on me, and my wife and kids and grand­kids. You can’t say any­thing, but in a town of this size where eve­ryone and his bro­ther knows eve­ry­thing, it’ll drive you cra­zy.”

Pre­vost doesn’t think the ac­cu­sa­tions were personal but tied to a de­ci­sion to sus­pend a di­rec­tor ge­ne­ral who his ad­mi­nis­tra­tion in­he­ri­ted af­ter ta­king of­fice.

‘I tried to work with her eve­ry which way, but there was no way.”

Pre­vost sus­pen­ded the em­ployee in a de­ci­sion that was sup­por­ted by coun­cil in a 4 - 2 vote. Spen­ser was one of the two to vote against the de­ci­sion.

The em­ployee has since sued the town in la­bour court. A de­ci­sion is ex­pec­ted ear­ly this year.

He al­so had to deal with what he cal­led a “cul­ture of en­tit­le­ment” with cer­tain town em­ployees that in­clu­ded not ha­ving in­come tax de­duc­tions ta­ken at the source, being paid in cash, ha­ving use of town cre­dit cards, and more. “You can’t dis­solve all that over­night. When you take away pri­vi­leges from people that had be­come ac­cus­to­med to them, there’s a lot of re­sent­ment,” he said. And Hud­son is trying to emerge from the black cloud cast by for­mer di­rec­tor ge­ne­ral Louise Lé­ger-Villan­dré, who was ac­cu­sed and convic­ted of de­frau­ding the town of more than a mil­lion dol­lars. She ser­ved time for the crime and was gran­ted full pa­role late last year.

Ed Pre­vost was pro­ba­bly glad to turn the ca­len­dar on 2016.The past year saw the Hud­son mayor bat­tling ma­jor health is­sues, grap­pling with “the mess” he in­he­ri­ted since ta­king of­fice three years ago, and de­fen­ding him­self against more than 150 breach of ethics al­le­ga­tions, among ma­ny other chal­lenges.

FOCUSING ON THE PO­SI­TIVE

Pre­vost calls Hud­son a ve­ry spe­cial place that exist as if the rest of the world doesn’t. The chal­lenge, he said, is convin­cing those who feel the town should “re­main the way its al­way been,” that mo­ney is des­pe­ra­te­ly nee­ded.

Pre­vost feels de­ve­lop­ment is the way to go.

A new­ly de­ve­lo­ped stra­te­gic plan in­cludes de­fi­ning Hud­son as an arts and cul­ture des­ti­na­tion.

“The ma­jor block in doing things qui­ck­ly is mo­ney. We don’t have an in­dus­trial base so de­ve­lop­ment will al­low us to im­ple­ment the stra­te­gic plan,” he said, ad­ding they are ap­plying for all grant and sub­si­dy funds for which they qua­li­fy.

Ideas being consi­de­red in­clude the de­ve­lop­ment of a mi­cro far­ming com­mu­ni­ty that will al­low youths to learn agri­cul­tu­ral skills, work with animals and sell what they grow. Sum­mer­time rick­shaw trans­por­ta­tion and kayak ren­tals are al­so fu­ture consi­de­ra­tions.

“We have our share of nay­sayers who are doing eve­ry­thing pos­sible to stop any kind of evo­lu­tion, but I think you convince nay­sayers by doing things.”

When as­ked if 2017 will be a bet­ter year? Pre­vost didn’t he­si­tate.

“There’s no ques­tion. In fact, I think the next num­ber of years will be ex­po­nen­tial­ly bet­ter.”

KRISTINA EDSON

PHO­TO KRISTINA EDSON

Hud­son mayor Ed Pre­vost will most li­ke­ly not seek re-elec­tion la­ter this year, but says the town is on the right track to a bet­ter fu­ture.

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