Earn­ing the mayor’s seat

The Compass - - OPINION - — By Com­pass staff

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.

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