By JAYMIE L. WHITE
Special to The Appalachian
STEPHENVILLE – Here are the mayoral and council candidates seeking election to Stephenville’s Town Council on Tuesday, Sept. 28.
Tom O’Brien (Mayoral candidate)
Tom O’Brien is no stranger to politics, having served previously as mayor of Stephenville for 12 years. O’Brien believes in what he and council were able to achieve in his three terms as mayor and would love the chance to build on those accomplishments once again.
“I bring a lot of experience back to the table. I understand how to work through the system to benefit the community as a whole. It’s something that you need, that experience to move the town forward.”
O’Brien said that during his time in the mayor’s chair a lot of financial benefits took place.
“When I became the mayor in 2005, the town had a debt of over $13 million dollars. Over my 12 years as the mayor, we did over $42 million dollars’ worth of municipal capital works improvements to the town. When I finished being the mayor in 2017, the town was virtually debt free.”
O’Brien has a great love for Stephenville and is invested in creating the type of town where people can flourish.
“A council has the responsibility to move a community forward in a way where people would want to live, work, and grow within the community,” said O’Brien. “You have to create an atmosphere where people would want to be, where businesses would want to do business. You have to be progressive.”
Tom Rose (Mayoral candidate)
Tom Rose has been mayor for the last four years, an accomplishment he sought for a long time.
“It took me a couple of decades to actually become the mayor,” said Rose. “I completed the first term, but COVID played a role that was challenging to get some of the files moving and I really feel it is important for me to continue into a second term – to ask the electorate to consider looking at my role as the mayor for the second term – to move Stephenville’s economic and social community forward.”
Rose believes that having a diverse council is essential to ensure there will always be fresh ideas.
“I think every council that moves forward needs to have a balance of seasoned councilors and leaders in the community in the role of municipal politics, but it is also important to bring in new faces, more diversity, new energy and new ideas to the table.”
Rose said diplomacy is important in a leadership role, and through diplomacy, town council has been very successful this term.
“You have to give people hope, you have to be a champion, you have to be able to work hard, and over the last four years I believe our council contributed to and achieved many successes,” said Rose.
Rose is confident in vision and his ability to serve another term.
“We manage our books very well and capitalize on federal/provincial funding programs when we can. I have a vision for this town, I’m proactive, I listen very well, and I think they are the key leadership skills that are required to be a good mayor.”
Laura Aylward is the longest-running member of town council, serving for the last 28 years. She believes her years of experience would prove helpful to new councillors.
“I think the old and the new voices would mix very well together. I think you need new people.”
Aylward wants to use her knowledge of the healthcare system to help move it in the right direction to improve what is already in place.
“I’m very passionate about healthcare, and we have a lot of issues with the healthcare in this area. We need a voice that can talk about healthcare and try to move it forward,” said Aylward. “We need new things. We really need a big clinic where all the doctors can get together and do their work. We need a new senior home for Stephenville.”
Aylward hopes to be a part of that effort going forward.
“We have a lot of things going on, announcements to make and things like that, some new things when it comes to recreation, like the new space for disc golf. There is a lot of major things coming on,” said Aylward. ““It’s been a good 28 years, we’ve done a lot in the town, and I want to continue on that path and continue to do more for the people of the community.”
Geoff Benoit is a man who believes in sharing his experience to make sure things are done right.
“I have 23 years in road construction, water and sewer, and I drive around our town and I see potholes that are not fixed properly, I see manholes two inches below the asphalt when they should be level with it. I see lots of town employees out filling potholes with quick-patch repair that lasts two days then they are back doing it again,” said Benoit. “There are better, more permanent solutions, so you aren’t throwing money away.”
Benoit understands efficiency and effectiveness.
“The whole object of the town council is to make this town run as if it was a corporation – you do what benefits your investors,” said Benoit. “The people are the investors, and the council are the CEO’s and managers. They should run things so that everybody benefits in some way.”
Benoit is not afraid to be the person who goes against the majority.
“I know how it’s done,” said Benoit. “My voice is going to be the one that makes sure when they say they are going to do something, it’s done the right way, or I am going to be against it.”
Benoit believes it is time for new blood in council.
“I like to see everybody benefit and see everybody happy. I know I can’t give everybody what they want, but I am willing to listen, and I will fight for what somebody wants. I will be a loud voice and a strong voice.”
Tracy Boland has been contemplating running for council for quite some time, and was always interested in helping people.
“I would like to see more help for seniors. Maybe put together a group of volunteers to help with snow clearing for them, or small house maintenance, or bringing them to doctor appointments so they don’t have to go alone, help seniors stay living at home for as long as they can,” said Boland. “Seniors are close to my heart. We are all going to be seniors one day, so I want to help make our town of Stephenville to be the home people want to retire in.”
Boland also feels strongly about supporting non-profit organizations and volunteers, search and rescue, the arts, recreation and small business.
“I have worked in the airline industry for approximately 30 years. I have volunteered as much as I could in our community. I feel that everyone deserves to be heard and I want to be there to help. I feel my experience working with people will be a skill I can use well.”
Boland was raised in a supportive environment where differences were celebrated and everyone was equal, something she believes will prove to be an asset if she is elected.
“My parents taught me to treat everyone equally no matter of money, stature, race, or sexuality. They taught me to always respect everyone,” said Boland. “I have nothing to gain by putting myself out there like this, but I’m ready to help our community. I’m ready to be an active member of council and try and do the best job that I can for all people that live here.”
Susan Fowlow, current deputy-mayor of Stephenville, wanted to run for council again to help continue the work from the past four years.
“One of the first things that I’ve learned, which is a difficult learning experience, is that the wheels of change are even slower when you are dealing with government and government departments,” said Fowlow. “A lot of things that I had hoped to see within the four-year term are taking a little longer to come to fruition, so about halfway through your term you realize ‘I want to stick with this now and see this through,’ and that would really involve a second term.”
Fowlow said that council has made a lot of positive changes during the current term like developing more green spaces, focusing on beautification, tourism, and improving recreational facilities. Fowlow believes it all plays a key role in moving the town in the right direction.
“That’s the voice I try to bring to the table, the whole piece around social development being very connected to economic development and the importance of keeping that in mind as we move forward.”
Fowlow wants to help the town continue to thrive.
“I’ve grown up in Stephenville. I spent my lifetime here; my professional career. I retired here because I love this community,” said Fowlow. “I want it to continue to be the great community that it was when I was young. I want it to continue to be vibrant and I want to continue to try to help make that happen. That’s where my heart is at this point.”
Paul Green believes strongly in political transparency and making sure the community is kept informed. He believes, if elected to council, he would be able to ensure people know what’s going on.
“I ran for council four years ago and I ran again because I feel the town needs more progress,” said Green. “I’ve been very active over the last four years with council, bringing up concerns to council and being an integral part of that team. I think I’ve got a lot to offer the town with social skills and communication.”
Green wants to see the town designate more places where people are able to congregate outside, especially after a global pandemic.
“We need greener spaces in Stephenville, places to relax, reduce stress, and build mental health activities – somewhere to get people out. We have had a bad couple of years with COVID and people being barred up,” said Green. “I think we need more spaces for the Indigenous culture, Newfoundland culture, French culture, for all the different cultures in Stephenville.”
Green isn’t afraid to make sure his voice is heard, but understands the importance of cooperation in moving Stephenville forward.
“I think I am very easy to work with. I am very outspoken. I’ve got a big mouth. I know a lot of people in Stephenville, and I have a lot of great ideas I can bring to the Town of Stephenville.”
Tristan Hulan, a long-time business owner in Stephenville, wants to see younger voices on council so a larger demographic can be properly represented.
“Over the years what I’ve noticed with council is there always seems to be the same demographic of 50 plus people on it. That’s great for a retirement community, but we seem to be lacking in services that really cater to our demographic of people under the age of 50,” said Hulan. “Over the last few years, we’ve made that jump. We have started to catch up, but there are a few things that we are still lacking that I feel could be addressed to make life better for young families and middle-aged families.”
Hulan believes that combining recreation and industry is a move in the right direction to attract and retain young people to the town.
“There have been a lot of inquiries about new playgrounds, splash pads – we used to have a bowling alley that was really popular with everyone. I think addressing the concerns of recreation, and health and wellness, will make us a much more attractive community for young people to move to,” said Hulan. “We can combine that with industry to see what else we can draw to the town to help employ people.”
Hulan wants to make Stephenville a happier place for all residents, organizations, and businesses.
“I’ve lived in Stephenville all my life. I volunteer with three different organizations here in town, and a lot of what makes Stephenville such a great place to live is not only the council, it’s the volunteer community and organizations,” said Hulan. “It’s something I would really like to be a part of, to help Stephenville become a better place for everybody to live, not just the retired.”
Melvin Pollard has run for council before and has always had a passion for politics that he hopes he can put to use as a member of the town council.
“I’m self-employed and have great interest in all levels of government, while being active for years within community affairs.”
Pollard believes in the possibilities for the Town of Stephenville and thinks that, with a few adjustments, the town will truly be able to grow and thrive.
“This area has great potential for growth and prosperity.”
Pollard has many ideas of issues to focus on if elected to council that will lead to a more positive experience for everyone in the community.
“If elected, some key improvements I would like to advocate for residents would include, health care services, road/sidewalk conditions, business development, tourism attractions, new infrastructure, further developments to Blanche Brook such as a playground, splash pad and mudroom kitchen play area.”
Pollard believes that working together will mean benefits for everyone, not just the town. He feels strongly in advocating for the community and making sure the needs of the people are met.
“It would be a privilege to have the opportunity to work with council on your behalf, committed to reach our full potential, together.”
Gerard Pomeroy has been living back in Stephenville for the last 31 years and wants the chance to give back to the town that has given him so much.
“I always had a desire for politics, and I am hoping to get the opportunity to exercise my aspiration. I believe in Stephenville and its potential to be a profitable and successful community.”
Pomeroy has many ideas for changes to enhance the town, including making sure there is more support for seniors, and increased recreational facilities for youth.
“I’d very much like to be part of the growth, promoting Stephenville, pushing it forward, creating economic growth here and maintaining and enhancing our economic development and what we have here already.”
Pomeroy believes his background as an accountant for the last 37 years will be a positive addition.
“I believe I can be an asset to the town, helping keep our town on budget, keeping transparency and honesty within council and making sure people know what’s going on in council and in the town.”
Pomeroy says he has a lot to offer the community.
“I’m known as an effective team player with a strong leadership ability. I promise to be available, approachable, open minded, and dedicated to the people of Stephenville,” said Pomeroy. ““I think I have a lot of new ideas I can contribute.”
Ernest Snooks believes the Town of Stephenville has a lot of potential that, if harnessed correctly, will make it a better place to live. There are numerous areas where Snooks believes the next town council can focus its efforts for maximum benefit.
“I would like to see the town continue to expand on the number of green spaces and leisure spaces that we have here. I feel it is something we are lacking. We don’t really have any large playgrounds. I think we could use even more community gardens. We can keep expanding on what we have and make everything more functional so more people can enjoy them,” said Snooks. “I would also like to see more sidewalks to help with pedestrian safety. A lot of our back streets are lacking in that.”
Snooks believes that his life and work experience will offer a fresh perspective to council.
“I think it’s my experience with volunteering in the community and working in small businesses in the town that give me a unique outlook, and experience on things and distinguishes me from other people. I have an on-the-ground view on things that others may not.”
Snooks wants to see Stephenville become a place where people can live and work, a place where someone isn’t required to work away to survive.
“This is a community I returned to after a few years in Alberta, and it’s somewhere I don’t want to leave again. I’m here to make sure that other people aren’t forced to make the same decisions that I did.”
One of the youngest nominees for council, Lenny Tiller says he got his desire to serve on municipal government level from his grandfather.
“I was basically raised by my grandparents. I was the kid that was up at 10:30 at night watching the National News, watching every political debate on TV, and going to every local debate,” said Tiller. “He instilled that love of community and what it is to make a difference and how to do it.”
Tiller says accessibility and transparency are two things he wants to address if elected. He believes in creating an accessibility and inclusion committee and making town meetings more accessible.
Tiller is running with a family-first approach, hoping to ensure that families stay in Stephenville.
“This is personal for me. I want to be able to help their families to try and find any way possible to keep our young people here, to retain them, to attract people here,” said Tiller. “So they can be here when their parents get older, to look after them, because I know what it is to be young and have to go away. I’ve seen my friends leave with their small families, and they don’t have any intention of coming back because they don’t see a future here.”
Tiller says a seat on council is something he doesn’t take lightly.
“I don’t have all the answers, but if I’m elected to council, I can listen to our community members who do have the answers because I would be elected to represent them.”
Myra White has 24 years at the College of the North Atlantic under her belt and is ready to help change the community for the better.
“I was so supportive of the council that’s been there for four years. I thought they did a fantastic job and implemented a lot of great things for the Town of Stephenville,” said White. “Because they’re requiring some new blood to come into council, and maybe because I’ve complained sometimes, I should put myself into that position to make a change.”
White loves the direction the town is moving in.
“I want to be part of encouraging people to do a great job. I always feel, when people come to our town, if they see beauty, if they see cleanliness, then they will always have a good memory of us. That’s what I want people who visit to take away with them.”
White wants to see the town council working together seamlessly so they are able to reach their goals effectively.
“I’m a team player. I love listening to everybody’s ideas and what they bring to the table. I like to do a little research on my own and I want to be fair. That is the type of person I am.”
Wade Winsor is a first-time nominee for council and believes in Stephenville’s potential.
“There are some things in the town that I feel are lacking,” said Winsor. “We need more for the younger kids. We need to take better care of the elderly people in our town – even something as small as helping with snow clearing in the winter.”
Winsor recognizes the importance of bringing industry back to Stephenville.
“I worked in the mill for 23 years, and it brought a lot of money and a lot of work to the town,” said Winsor. “Since then, a lot of people that worked in the mill had to leave the province, had to leave home to find work. I want to see something big come here so we can have more jobs so people can come back home. I know it’s a big dream, but you’ve got to dream big.”
Winsor believes in helping people around him achieve success.
“I’m a good listener, I’m patient, and I would like to think I am supportive. Anybody who has a sensible goal, I always encourage them, try to help them reach their goal,” said Winsor. “We are all floating down the same river and if somebody gets hung up you reach out and give them a hand.”