MEET THE CANDIDATES
A byelection will be held on Dec. 10 (advance polls Dec. 1) to fill a seat on Sackville Town Council. The seat was vacated by Coun. Megan Mitton when she stepped down after being elected the region’s new MLA. Today, we take a closer look at four of the
Julia Feltham Julia Feltham is a mother, an entrepreneur, a facilitator, a singing cellist and a touring musician.
She soon hopes to add Sackville town councillor to her list.
Feltham is one of five candidates vying for a seat on town council in the upcoming municipal byelection, a decision she said she made because of her passion for her community and her enthusiastic desire to see Sackville reach its full potential.
“I think Sackville could be the centre for rural innovation for all of Atlantic Canada,” said Feltham.
A professional community developer, Feltham says Sackville has so much to offer, with one of the most walkable downtowns in Atlantic Canada and with its location as the “cultural crossroads” of the Maritimes. And she wants to help bring more new ideas and innovation to the table.
Feltham says her skills and experience as a social entrepreneur has helped her develop new approaches, using market and business tools, to solve environmental, social and economic problems.
“I would love for Sackville to be known as a place that is home to the solution economy,” she said, “where we look at all our problems as our best opportunities.
For example, she points to the untapped potential in our region for wind and tidal energy, as well as economic opportunities around a climate change adaptation sector.
“All of the jobs for green energy and retrofitting need tradespeople … there’s no reason this can’t be the best place for young professionals to live in Canada.”
Feltham said another reason she is running for the council seat, which was vacated by councillor Megan Mitton when she stepped down after being elected the region’s new MLA, is because she loves public engagement and wants to make sure the municipality and its citizens have healthier conversations.
She said the level of public discourse, particularly in an era of social media and hyper-partisanship, could be improved – with more team-building, discussing solutions with each other, and using the community’s own resources.
“We live in a community where we can actually host conversations where we complete solutions rather than just fight each other about how you’re making the problems worse,” said Feltham. “My biggest hope is we reframe our problems to be the amazing opportunities they could be … as long as we use the outstanding talent we have in this town and let them know we’re working on shared solutions to public problems.”
She said she’s excited about the high caliber of candidates who are running in the byelection and feels they could all bring different talents and skillsets to the table.
“I feel like most of the people who are candidates actually feel they can make a positive difference and have very particular ideas; and I think that is beautiful and really enriches the conversation.”
Co-founder of the Sackville Commons, the town’s first coworking space, Feltham said being on council would be another great way for her to be an ambassador for this town she has come to love so much. But even if she is not elected on Dec. 10, she said she just really wants people to know she is still always on board to talk about the future of Sackville. Brian Neilson He’s a dedicated volunteer and a strong advocate for education reform in the community. Now, Brian Neilson is putting his name forward for a seat on Sackville town council.
Neilson, who originally came to Sackville as a Mount Allison University student more than two decades ago and is now married with two school-aged children, has been committed to the town in various capacities over the years and now wants to bring some of that passion and engagement to the municipal realm.
Through his voluntary work, Neilson said he has seen a lot of opportunities and potential for developing successful ventures and he’d like to be a part of developing a bigger-picture vision for the town.
“I want to get involved in more of the long-term planning,” he said.
Calling himself “more of a giver than a taker,” Neilson is a family man who says he simply wants to give back to the community he has come to call home over the past 20-plus years. Serving as the cook/ manager at the University Club of Sackville for about 15 years, Neilson is presently a member of the Salem Elementary Parent School Support Committee, Sackville Community Association, the Crake Foundation, N.B. Federation of Home & School Associations, and Sackville Schools 2020. He is also the president of the Tantramar Family Resource Centre and the president of the Salem Home and School Association. This fall, Neilson has also been the community cooking instructor for Marshview Middle School’s “Engage” program. He has previously served on the Dorchester Penitentiary Citizen’s Advisory Committee and during his student years was a volunteer at the Sackville Food Bank.
Neilson said he believes he could represent several different demographics on council – including as a former university student, a parent, a volunteer – and serve as an ambassador for the town, promoting it as a great place to raise a family. He knows there is a desire by a number of Mount Allison students to either stay after graduation or to one day return, and he wants to ensure Sackville is doing all it can to retain those students.
He would also like to see more consideration being given to make Sackville a more walkable and “greener” town, and said the approach being taken with the proposed plan at the Trans-canada highway Exit 506 is a good first step.
“We need to try and make that a destination rather than just a pass through,” said Neilson.
Neilson ran unsuccessfully for a council seat in the 2016 municipal election but said that didn’t deter him from throwing his hat in the ring again, this time in a byelection.
“While being unsuccessful last time, I didn’t lose interest in the town, the administration and its future.”
Neilson believes he has a good understanding of how council works and feels the shorter term will provide new candidates with a good introduction to municipal politics.
Dy lan Wooley-berry
Dylan WooleyBerry wants to step forward and contribute to his community.
That’s what has prompted the 24-year-old to throw his hat in the ring for a seat on Sackville town council in the upcoming byelection.
Wooley-berry recently returned to his hometown after working with the federal government in Ottawa for more than a year and feels he could bring a much-needed youthful presence to town council.
He said he recognizes a majority of young New Brunswickers are regularly heading out of the province for other opportunities; but for those who do choose to stay or return to their home communities, the door needs to be open for them to become involved in the civic process.
“I think if we want to make Sackville a more inviting place for the people who grew up here who choose to stay and for people who choose to come back, we’re going to have to elect young people and have young people making some of the decisions.”
Wooley-berry, born and raised in Sackville, has been an active and engaged participant in the community most of his life. In his younger years, he played minor hockey, swam for the Sackville Swim Club, served on the student council at Tantramar, and volunteered with a few local organiza- tions.
Following high school, WooleyBerry attended Mount Allison University where, during his second year, he was elected student union president. He said he learned a lot serving in that role, attributes he could bring to the council table.
“I think my experience taught me how to work well with people within our own community, taught me the value of collaborating and listening to everyone before deciding how to move forward.”
After earning a bachelor of arts degree in political science, WooleyBerry moved to Ottawa for an internship in the office of the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard and was offered a full-time position at the end of the internship. After working for more than a year in the minister’s office, he decided to move back to Sackville.
“I just love it here,” said WooleyBerry, adding he also hopes to pursue further education and earn his teaching degree in New Brunswick.
He talks about how much he enjoyed his time at Mount Allison, acknowledging the supportive and tight-knit community he benefited from that helped him grow and thrive as an individual.
“Now I’d like to have the opportunity to give back to the community and I saw running for town council as a positive way to do that.”
He said if elected, he would like to be a part of developing a positive and forward-looking vision for the town.
“I think when we make decisions, we have to think about not just how that decision is going to affect us in the next year or four years, but look to what we want to make Sackville in the next decade or two decades, and start planning and laying the groundwork for that.”
For example, New Brunswick will be facing demographic challenges in the near future, he stated, and Sackville will need to be ready.
“We have to take that into account and put forward public policy that’s going to make Sackville resilient to those changes.”
He also proposes to bring free public wifi to the downtown core, a move that he says has been a long time coming. The town has the technological capability to do so and it should capitalize on that, he said.
“I think it’s an innovative way of supporting local business and drawing people into the heart of Sackville.” Sabine Dietz Sabine Dietz is hoping she has a chance to bring her experience and interest in local governance to the table as she vies for a seat on Sackville town council in the upcoming municipal byelection.
“I think I can contribute quite a bit with my knowledge and my background,” said Dietz.
Dietz, an environmental consultant, has extensive experience working with communities of different sizes all across the province and has a solid understanding of many of the issues municipalities face.
“I know where some of the challenges are that need to be met.”
With a PHD in biology and a master’s in environmental studies, Dietz has been working as a program and project facilitator and coordinator since the mid-1980s. She said this has involved bringing various stakeholders together and serving in a capacity building role, ensuring engagement and communication were key throughout the process.
Dietz moved to the Sackville area about 13 years ago after taking a position as executive director of Cape Jourimain Nature Centre, where she worked until 2010. Since that time, she has worked as climate change adaptation specialist for the provincial government, the regional services commission and numerous municipalities on various projects.
In 2013, she co-founded the Aster Group, a worker co-operative that delivers environmental consulting services.
Dietz said her involvement behind the scenes as a volunteer on various committees and organizations in the region have also provided her with a good knowledge of the dynamics of local government. She has previously served on the boards of EOS Eco Energy, Beausejour Renewable Energy, Tantramar Tourism Association, Co-op Enterprise Council of New Brunswick, and Nature NB.
Dietz said she is excited about the potential of working with the current town council.
“I like that balance that is on council right now and I’d like to maintain that,” she said.
Dietz, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor in the 2012 election, said her decision to put her name forward last time around was motivated by her disappointment over a lack of action by the council at the time on a number of issues. This time, however, that’s not the case.
“Things are happening now. There are a lot of good things going on and I’d like to be a part of that, to contribute and help where I can.”
She said she loves Sackville and hopes to be able to play a role in creating even more opportunities for the creative and innovative thinkers that are making the town such a special place.
Dietz said she is concerned about the timing of the byelection and hopes winter conditions won’t discourage residents from getting out to vote.