The recent municipal election may have brought a change of faces on Stouffville town council, but they have a familiar look to them. With Ward 5 victor Richard Bartley reclaiming the seat he occupied for eight years and former Ward 6 councillor and mayor, Sue Sherban, again representing Ward 6, there appears to be a level of experience on council that ensures minimal time is spent getting council up to speed and maximum time dealing with the nuts and bolts of running the town. That is exactly the kind of advantage Sherban sold constituents throughout the campaign trail and one she plans to deliver.
Noting that she was dismayed by the number of good staff members leaving the town and the critical mass of experience that went with them, Sherban felt compelled to run.
“I felt I had to (run) because I love Stouffville,” she said. “I grew up in Stouffville. I grew up on Musselman’s Lake. All my kids grew up here. I have a close connection to the community and a lot of history and … I can’t see it going this direction. It doesn’t need to go there.” She believes her experience on a not-so-fractured council will be a moderating influence in current times.
Some thought, as Sherban got more involved with the issues of the last few years that she might be considering a run for the mayor’s seat. But, she says, that wasn’t in the cards. She felt she could contribute best in the councillor role she is now in. Sherban notes she has a great career outside of politics that she would have to quit to take on the full-time role of mayor.
“I realized I could do every bit as much as a councillor at that table as mayor” she said. She also adds that the mayor does have a significant role, apart from councillors, in setting agendas for the town and setting an example that others can look to and there were already candidates that would fill that role well.
With those considerations in mind, Sherban got down to some old-fashioned door knocking, covering every door in the largest ward, by population, re-establishing contact with long-term residents and introducing herself to new ones.
Sherban notes that she deliberately did not focus on personality issues on the campaign trail but, rather, stuck to a promise of better communication with residents on key issues, something she believed was lacking, and deliver on a roster of everyday issues that concern her ward.
Traffic safety, higher park and community centre usage, train whistle cessation and downtown betterment all figure high on her priority list. These are “touchy-feely” things Sherban says are often more important than tax bills.
“They are much more important to today’s voters than years ago,” she said.
Part of what Sherban, a life-long area resident, sees as key to a better future is better maintenance and protection of our past.
“People here do not move to Stouffville because they want a brand-new townhouse or condo on Main Street,” she said. “People move to this town because they drove through this main street and they saw these historical buildings and they loved them.”
Sherban notes she is not against development, adding she is supportive of industrial development in Gormley and will push for cooperation with other government levels to make it happen. She also notes that the new development on what was once the Southwire building was welcomed and that commercial tax revenue is key to ongoing financial stability, but wants to ensure development complements history, not erase it.
The issue of sound planning is key to Sherban’s way forward as she believes poor planning in the past has caused the town traffic safety headaches that the current leadership has to deal with. With direct reference to the clumping of schools along Hoover Rd., she notes the town should have refused applications from York Region board and their schools should have been placed in the centres of those subdivisions and not on the main routes. That would have avoided the mass of traffic that congests the area at certain times.
Sherban points to the town staffing issues as being partly responsible for poor planning decisions of the past in many areas, noting that input from senior staff was too often ignored or marginalized causing them to exit, leading to an unfair burden put on the less experienced people who replaced them.
“It takes senior staff people who have been around and been in the municipality to know what the pulse and vision of the community is,” she said.
Sherban concludes with a hopeful view forward, saying she is looking forward to playing a role in helping the new mayor and council craft a new formal strategic plan they all can get behind – something she felt was lacking in the last term.
Citing a renewed positivity in town, improved relations with the region and the experience on this council she smiles and says, “I believe we will work really well together.”
Photo: Ward 6 Councillor Sue Sherban.