Friday, December 2, 2022

2022 Municipal Election Candidate Profile: Ross Kentner

Candidate Name: Ross Kentner

Position Sought: Mayor

Email: rosskentner@gmail.com

Phone: 519-538-3185

Bio:

Professional career:

  • I became a Councillor following a broadcasting career that began in 1961 when I joined CFOS Radio in Owen Sound. In 1985, I was named General Manager of Bayshore Broadcasting and held that post until 2018. We won 8 FM licences launching new stations across Southern Ontario.

  • As Councillor, I kept ratepayers informed and engaged on FaceBook.

Extracurricular accomplishments:

  • Chair of Raise the Roof Campaign at Meaford United Church. Replacing the roof trusses added another 100 years to the life of a treasured heritage building.

  • Ontario Hall of Fame, Ontario Association of Broadcasters – 2018

  • Lifetime Achievement Award – Radio Television Digital News Association, Canada – 2011

  • Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal – 2002

  • Past Chair Ontario Association of Broadcasters

  • Twice Chair of Community Engagement Committee Georgian College in Owen Sound

  • Chair Community Foundation Grey-Bruce – 1995

Some personal details:

  • I came to Meaford from Toronto while in high school and married Ruth Ann Ferguson of Meaford in 1966. I graduated from Western University in 1976 with a BA.

  • Ruth Ann has supported me in every endeavour. We love that our family calls Meaford their happy place!

  • As with the 2018 election, we are completely self-funding my campaign.

Explain your primary reasons for your decision to seek election to Meaford Council:

The Municipality of Meaford is not the same place it was when I ran for Council in 2018:

  • $100 million in building permits in 2021!

  • A $4.5-billion mega project likely to proceed!

  • Hundreds of new houses in the planning queue.

  • Population up 4.5% since 2016.

This dynamic growth stresses our municipality because we are not prepared for it. We need visionary leadership which should emanate from the Mayor’s office and serve to unify Council and energize staff.

I have served as our Alternate at Grey County Council, on the Board of our new Public Library, and as Chair of the Heritage Advisory Committee. Insights gained influenced my contributions to our new Official Plan and will also help me in the Mayor’s role. It’s critically important to listen to the public and to be fully prepared for Council meetings so that discussions are meaningful and respectful.

We are at a critical tipping point in Meaford, growing quickly with ever-increasing development opportunities. Our Official Plan is the road map. We need to respect it and be guided by it, rather than continually amending it or ignoring its directions.

In your view, what should be the top priorities for the Council that is elected on October 24?

I believe the top priorities for the new Council are as follows:

  • An action plan to build attainable and affordable housing

  • Sustainable and innovative economic/agricultural development to create more and better jobs

  • Protecting agricultural land & more investment in rural infrastructure

  • Improving cellular/broadband/internet in both rural and urban Meaford to promote employment

  • Supporting retail in urban Meaford

  • Providing more facilities and services to attract young families

  • Improving health services and long-term care

Beyond those action items, I believe the new Council needs to set the agenda. Currently, the Mayor and senior staff control the agenda. That is why Council often has an agenda running several hundred pages with less than a week to digest and consider, to say nothing of consulting with ratepayers. You may have heard me say during this term, “Councillors are the last to find out about everything.” That has to change.

My plan is to take a page from George Cuff’s new book The Mayor. Cuff is a highly regarded authority on municipal affairs in Canada. My key takeaway from his book is that the Mayor, on a rotating basis, should bring each member of Council into the weekly meeting with the CAO so that every member of Council can be up to speed on the agenda and have input to it. Cuff also recommends regular and constructive dialogue between staff and Council.

In addition:

  • I view the establishment of our Economic Development Advisory Committee as the most important achievement of the present Council. But unless it can meet more regularly and is given resources, we will lose these talented, well-connected volunteers.

  • I am the only member of Council to take a stand on the pumped storage project. Like Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator, I remain sceptical of its value to electricity consumers. However, in the event of approval by senior governments, I pledge my full support to its success and to ensuring that Meaford derives full benefit from hosting what would be among the largest civil engineering projects underway in Canada.

  • During the past term we have danced all around a clear vision for the Municipality of Meaford. We can’t become the community we want to be if we lack a coherent vision and a plan to get there. Therefore, a public process to articulate our vision is critically important to our success.

Explain the role of Councillor (or Mayor/Deputy Mayor) as you understand it.

It’s a truism that the Mayor only has one vote. However, the Mayor must ensure that Councillors have a fulsome opportunity to be informed about the issues and to express themselves and engage in debate on the business before them. He or she should not attempt to counter others during discussion and should reserve their own contribution until all have been heard. Retiring Mayor Barb Clumpus did this very well.

Along with the Deputy Mayor, the Mayor represents the municipality at County Council. These are important duties because the County spends more than 25-cents of every tax dollar on the delivery of critical services, including: providing/maintaining county highways and bridges; economic development and planning; social and children’s services (including housing); long-term care; and paramedic services. This vital work goes on largely under the radar of taxpayers. That’s why it is so important for the Mayor and Deputy Mayor to be unified and to vote in consensus on items that will advance our municipality’s needs.

As Councillors, we’re elected to lead, not manage. And I believe the Mayor’s single advantage is to provide leadership both to council and the CAO.

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