‘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

St. Thomas Times-Journal - - FRONT PAGE - Joe Pre­ston

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.

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