‘My role is to make St. Thomas a better place’
Joe Preston was sworn in Monday as the mayor of St. Thomas. The business owner and former Conservative MP chats with Laura Broadley about his leadership style and whether the city needs a supervised drug injection site
Q Describe your leadership style
Co-operative. I work well with other people. I find common ground and we build from there. Almost everybody has a majority of things in common with others, let’s work on the 80 per cent we agree with. One day we’ll have to work on the 20 per cent where we may have differences but we’ll already have found we’re successful at working together. So, I mean, I’ve used this style most of my life and it really does work, and in municipal politics it may be the best way.
Q How are you going to gain favour with the people who didn’t vote for you?
The good thing is it’s a secret ballot and no one knows. I have to assume from the beginning, they all did or they all didn’t. Being a positive person, I’ll assume that they all did and we just work from there.
There really isn’t a difference. My role is to make St. Thomas a better place and I’ll do that for everyone ... regardless of whether I knew or didn’t know whether they voted for me.
This is about my community being a better place.
Q What are you going to change about the way council is run?
Look, I think style is always a change. I’m going to be more co-operative, more openly communicative ... Whether that’s with our council so that we work well together, whether that’s with our neighbouring communities Central Elgin and Southwold ... so we’re not surprising each other, we’re working well together. The County of Elgin, the same way. The city of London, the relationship between St. Thomas and the city of London can be better by being more openly communicative and co-operative.
The other levels of government the same thing happens. As a municipality, the provincial government, the federal government, both have a lot of influence on what happens here. So, being very openly communicative with them and co-operative with them on areas of infrastructure or amenities for our community, that’s going to make a difference.
Q What are you going to keep the same about the way council is run?
Yes, this council has accomplished so much for the community. Our community is in great shape ... Let’s carry on with that and let’s move forward from an already great starting point. This isn’t about rapid change. This is about being able to handle rapid growth. It’s about being able to do what we’ve been doing, faster, better, smarter, “smileyer,” whichever way you want to put it, that’s what this is about. That was my motivation for coming forward. And this council, take a look at the strength of this council. If we can’t accomplish that, I’m not reading these people right.
Q What is your position on a supervised drug consumption site for St. Thomas?
I’d have to have a lot more details on it. We’ve being doing a lot of community safety, needle pickup, and that type of work.
I think harm reduction or harm prevention is an important piece, so I’m for a safe consumption site in the sense of it as harm reduction. I think it needs to be hooked to or along with some work on addiction prevention, some work on mental health, some work on housing.
Nothing stands alone in our community and so, can we work on all of those things together? And it includes a safe consumption site, fine. But let’s not start with that premise, let’s make that part of the ammunition on the way to a solution.