Earning the mayor’s seat
It’s encouraging to see so much competition for the position of mayor in so many of the larger communities in the Trinity Conception region.
Unlike in some of the largest municipalities in this province, including Gander and Mount Pearl and Grand Falls-Windsor, where the incumbent mayor’s are simply sashaying into their still-warm chairs, the situation is much different in towns such as Bay Roberts, Upper Island Cove, Spaniard’s Bay, Harbour Grace, Carbonear, Victoria, Heart’s Delight-Islington and Whitbourne.
In all other towns, there is no separate ballot, and the positions of mayor and deputy mayor are chosen by those elected to council at their first meeting.
The number of hotly contested mayoral races shows that democracy is alive and well in this region, but it also demonstrates that leaders in these communities are willing to step forward and challenge for the top elected post, confident they have something positive and visionary to offer.
Having a separate ballot for mayor brings a new level of excitement to a municipal election, but in some cases credible candidates shy away from the challenge, mindful that the chances of earning a spot on council are less than if you run for one of the six at-large council seats.
Those who argue against the mayor’s ballot also point to the fact that, in most cases, top-quality leaders tend to seek out the job. And when two or more accept the nomination, some very capable people are often booted to the sideline.
That’s a valid point. In Carbonear, for example, Sam Slade and Ches Ash are vying for the mayor’s chair. Both have made substantial contributions to the administration of the town’s affairs in recent years. Unfortunately, it’s all of nothing for both. One of them will be a private citizen after the ballots are counted on Sept. 24. Either way, that’s a loss for the Town of Carbonear.
The same holds true in Spaniard’s Bay, where two exceptional municipal leaders — Brenda Seymour and Wayne Smith — are vying for votes, and in Upper Island Cove, where longtime Mayor George Adams and wellknown volunteer Craig Mercer are going head-to-head.
But you can’t overstate the importance of giving citizens a say in who wears the municipal chain-of-office. Though mayors have the same voting power as any member of council, they carry out a much more prominent role in the affairs of a town, and often play the role of ambassador at a variety of events and ceremonies. The mayor is symbolic of the image a town wants to convey, especially when it comes to attracting prospective businesses or new residents.
And when something goes wrong with your water or sewer, or the snowclearing is not up to snuff, the mayor is often the first one to get the call.
It’s just too bad we won’t see a mayor’s race in Clarke’s Beach, where 25 candidates will be on the ballot. Council, in all its wisdom, voted to do away with the separate ballot last year, meaning the lucky seven who survive on election day will have the duty of selecting a mayor. Seems rather anti-climactic. Perhaps the next council will make restoring the separate ballot one of its first orders of business.
That said, Sept. 24 will be a fascinating day in this region, with the outcome of many races too close to call. The only sure thing is that citizens will have a very real say in who leads their communities for the next four years. That includes doing your civic duty and going to the polling station and casting a vote.
Based on the candidates that have stepped forward, we’re anticipating that voter turnout in many communities will be exceptionally high, and that’s a good thing.