John W. Drover pre­par­ing for pri­vate life

Pop­u­lar Spa­niard’s Bay mayor will not seek re-elec­tion

The Compass - - NEWS - BY TERRY ROBERTS THE COM­PASS

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.”

Ex­pe­ri­enc­ing growth

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.

edi­tor@cb­n­com­pass.ca

Photo by Terry Roberts/the Com­pass

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