Big names on ballot for Carbonear mayor
Frank Butt, George Butt, Sam Slade vie for votes in three-way race
The 2017 mayoral race in Carbonear looks to be quite the battle, with three strong candidates vying to claim a single seat.
Two current council members — Mayor George Butt Jr. and Deputy Mayor Frank Butt — and former mayor Sam Slade all hope to attract the most votes once polling stations close Sept. 26.
Mayor Butt (of no relation to the deputy mayor) earned that title following a 2014 byelection victory over former deputy mayor Ches Ash. A few months earlier, it was Slade who earned his third-consecutive term in the mayor’s seat. Slade subsequently resigned after he was elected MHA in the former district of Carbonear-Harbour Grace, replacing the unexpectedly departed Jerome Kennedy.
All incumbent council members are seeking to regain a seat, with Bill Bowman, Ed Goff, David Kennedy, Ray Noel and Brenda Trickett all in the mix. Also running for council seats are Ash, Danielle Doyle, Steve Dunphy, Amanda Hulan, Victor Jenkins, Chris O’Grady, Melissa O’Keefe, Malcolm Seymour, Ches Sheppard, Gregory Short, Alex Slade and Peter Snow. George Butt Jr. George Butt Jr. had a previous stint as mayor following the sudden death of Claude Garland in 2004. A year later, Slade defeated the incumbent mayor, though Butt Jr. was able to regain a seat on council in 2009.
The current mayor feels the last four years have been good ones for council. In an interview with The Compass, he emphasized the importance of working together as a group and getting along with town staff and other groups with a stake in the community, such as the fire department.
“I’m a team player,” said the mayor, a 26-year veteran of council who works for Canada Post. “I mean, a mayor is only so good as his council, so I can do that. I’m after proving that.”
In a day and age where funds from higher levels of government are scarcer, Mayor Butt emphasizes the importance of maintaining a dialogue with the local MHA and MP.
“There’s always a little extra from some department or some new policy,” he said, noting he keeps in touch with representatives in St. John’s and Ottawa regularly. “So when you’ve got good communication with these fellers, you’re up on that.”
Moving forward, Mayor Butt sees projects to help Carbonear grow as a priority item. He’s hopeful a development on vacant land south of Canadian Tire and the proposed hotel for Crocker’s Cove can go a long way in strengthening the town’s economy. The mayor also expects the implementation of the Carbonear Downtown Development Plan will further revitalize that area, and he notes there are a number of road projects one phase away from completion and others like Mahaney’s Lane that deserve upgrades.
Slade’s attempt at returning to politics comes almost two years after he lost a nomination battle to current Carbonear-Trinity-Bay de Verde MHA Steve Crocker in a district with redrawn boundaries.
“I always knew when the time arose again that I would have another crack at the mayor’s chair,” Slade said.
With 20 years of experience on council and two-full terms served as mayor, he knows the position very well. Slade feels he still knows how to best connect with residents.
“I always had a very good rapport with people,” he said. “I always gave them the opportunity to come to me and meet with me … Every Wednesday from October up until March, I used to have the mayor’s clinic. That was received greatly by the people, where the people could come in off the street, and if they had a concern or anything regarding council or their own concerns, they could come in and have a chat with me.”
This time around, Slade has added political experience through his two years in the Confederation Building as a Liberal MHA. Slade said he learned a lot there and knows quite a bit about moving around the system to get things done at a provincial level. With a Liberal government now in office, he knows quite a few people in high up places.
“Eddie Joyce is a good, close personal friend of mine. The premier himself (Dwight Ball) is a good, close personal friend.”
While he can find no fault with how the current council has operated over the last few years, Slade has ideas about where he’d like to see things move going forward.
“Carbonear is a growing community. We have lots of businesses out there right now that support the town. There’s the potential of more businesses coming to town, such as that hotel there in Crocker’s Cove … We’ve just got to be aggressive enough as a council to go out and pursue that.”
Among councillor hopefuls in 2013, businessman Frank Butt had the second highest vote total and, following the resignation of Slade, became the town’s deputy mayor. He’s now closing in on completing his first term on council.
“It took the term to figure out where the town needed to go and what needed to be changed, I guess,” the deputy mayor said when asked about why he’s running for the mayor’s seat. “I’m sure like any job that you take, you spend the first bit of time getting your feet wet.”
A volunteer firefighter who is also president of the Carbonear Downtown Business Association, Deputy Mayor Butt said he fully understands the town’s role in helping the community. He’s particularly interested in strengthening the town’s business community and finding ways for it to grow.
“Not just the retail. We have to get into manufacturing — something that’s going to create jobs. With jobs, people move in. Some people may decide to stay in Carbonear. Some people might stay outside. But if you can get 10 or 15 per cent that are going to stay in Carbonear, your population will increase, and your business tax base will increase. And by increasing your tax base, you won’t have to increase residential taxes.”
While he might not have as much experience as others running for the mayor’s seat, Deputy Mayor Butt believes he can bring something fresh to the table.
“As they say, I guess, everything is better with age, but sometimes when you (stay) in a position for too long, you become complacent and you just don’t have the energy or the drive to think outside the box … I’m going to be able to have the energy to get out around town, let people know what’s going on, promote the town from a business and citizen perspective, and you’ve got to have the energy. You’ve got to hustle. You can’t just hope that things are going to take place in your town.”
Carbonear Deputy Mayor Frank Butt is looking to move on up in municipal politics.
George Butt Jr. was elected mayor of Carbonear in a 2014 byelection.
Sam Slade was declared mayor of Carbonear in the 2005, 2009 and 2013 general elections.