John W. Drover preparing for private life
Popular Spaniard’s Bay mayor will not seek re-election
The Town of Spaniard’s Bay has changed considerably since John W. Drover was first elected to council in a controversial byelection in 1980.
Among the changes, no doubt, is the level of interest in municipal government.
Drover, a retired school teacher originally from nearby Upper Island Cove, topped the pol ls in that byelection, garnering just 146 votes, and was tapped to serve as deputy mayor. The byelection became necessary after all but two of the sitting councillors quit when the province required that taxes be levied on property owners.
These days, a candidate for council in Spaniard’s Bay needs between 700 and 800 votes to earn one of the six council seats, while the mayor is elected by a separate ballot.
“The interest in council is much higher,” Drover stated last week while reflecting on his long career in municipal politics, including the last 16 years as mayor. At one point in recent history, there were some 30 candidates on the ballot, Drover added.
Turning a page
Interest is once again expected to be high when citizens of Spaniard’s Bay go to the polls to elect a new town council on Sept. 24, but for the first time in many years, John W. Drover will not be among the names on the ballot.
At 66, Drover has decided that he would like to slow things down a little, spend more time with family, and enjoy a more relaxed lifestyle that includes a travel trailer and a certain campground in Trinity South.
Spaniard’s Bay Mayor John Drover will not be seeking re-election in September.
Much like the town’s financial situation, Drover’s health is good shape and he wants to make the best of his retirement years.
“I’ve decided the time is right to move away” from council,” he said. “It’s time for others to take over; some new ideas.”
Drover is deeply connected to the town, having spent nearly all of his teaching career at Holy Redeemer school before retiring in the mid1990s.
He leaves politics as arguably one of the town’s most popular and respected municipal leaders. He was first elected mayor in 1997, knocking off incumbent Lewis Gosse, won reelection in 2001 in a field of three candidates, including Gosse, and was unchallenged for the post in both 2005 and 2009.
In recent years, he has served alongside his daughter, Sheri Collins, the only father-and-daughter duo to ever serve on the town council. He refers to the current slate of councillors as exceptional and very eager.
He speaks with reverence about the citizens of his adopted hometown, and remembers with great fondness and appreciation the level of sympathy and support he received after the passing of his beloved wife, Irene, a few months before the 2009 election. The couple was married for 42 years.
“It was a difficult time, but there was a lot of respect there,” Drover recalled.
“I’m really grateful for the support I’ve received over the years.”
Spaniard’s Bay is sandwiched between Bay Roberts in the south and Harbour Grace in the north, and according to the 2011 census, has a population of 2,622 residents. That’s an increase of some 3.2 per cent over 2006, and is reflected in the fact that new home construction is robust, and young families are choosing to make Spaniard’s Bay their home.
Drover said he leaves with confidence the town is on the right track, and poised for a bright future.
He described the town’s financ i a l s t a tu s a s “exceptional.” He recalls a time when 41 cents of every dollar in revenue collected by the town was directed toward debt charges. That figure has since dropped to 11 cents following the repayment in full of several loans.
Council can now apply to the provincial government for capital works upgrades with confidence, knowing the town has the resources to pay its 10 per cent share.
One of th e priorities is the replacement of a sewer outfall that will cost more than $1 million, said Drover.
Meanwhile, he added, some 95 per cent of the town is now what he calls “fully serviced” with water, sewer and paved roads. He remembers a time when only 30-plus per cent of the town had services.
“I’ve decided the time is right to move away from council. It’s time for others to take over; some new ideas.” — John Drover, mayor, Town of Spaniard’s Bay
The financial turnaround can be attributed to a concerted effort to collect outstanding taxes, the consolidation of loans, and deliberate belt-tightening to curtail any unnecessary spending, Drover added
When asked to name the highlight of his tenure on council, Drover immediately references the decision in 1991 to amalgamate the town’s of Spaniard’s Bay and Tilton. Drover said Tilton has never lost its identity, and he hopes it never does.
“It was a bit complicated in the beginning, but it’s all worked out very well,” he said.
As for the proposed Veterans Memorial Business Park, which has experienced several starts and stops in recent years, Drover remains confident it will go ahead, though he said it’s unlikely that work will begin before September’s election.
Once in full swing, Drover said the business park will bring “enormous” benefits to the entire region.
As for a potential successor in the mayor’s chair, Drover admits he’s had discussions with both Deputy Mayor Tony Menchions and Coun. Wayne Smith, though neither have confirmed their candidacy.
Drover said either man would be a good mayor. The only pitfall, he said, is that one of them would have to lose.