An active member of the community since leaving a teaching post at the University of Pennsylvania for Elmira in 2008, Dan Holt feels prepared to take on a leadership role in the Township of Woolwich. Having joined the race with Scott Hahn and Ruby Weber for council’s Ward 1, Holt says taking a measured, pragmatic approach to growth is his top priority.
“One of the things I think we need to be careful of is we don’t want to grow so fast that we outgrow what we all love about Elmira,” Holt said at his home on Spruce Lane. “We need to make sure that we take care and plan the flow of traffic, we plan for the sewer systems, the lighting of the streets and the way that the community interacts so that we don’t become what people who come here want to avoid. … Elmira is a growing community and we need some leadership into the future, we can’t stand still because if we do we will fall behind.”
Holt moved to Elmira when his wife Colleen Willard-Holt accepted the position of Dean of Education at Wilfrid Laurier University. The pair fell in love with the area, and with plenty of spare time upon retiring from his own career teaching education and psychology, Holt put his expertise in social services to work.
Currently, he is the chair of the Chemtura Public Advisory Committee and a member of the Sulco Community Advisory Panel, the Woolwich Council Property Standards Committee, the Region of Waterloo Compensation Committee and the Elmira Theatre Company. Past service includes work on the Woolwich Counselling Centre’s board, the mayor’s task force for alternative uses of old township hall in Elmira, the region of Waterloo’s Crown Ward Educational Team and Community Care Concepts.
“I’ve worked in various kinds of social services all my life, in education, and at one point a long time ago I was the executive director of the arthritis foundation,” Holt said. “I think that in education and working with various community organizations, I’ve seen the benefit of working with boards and committees, and I understand the value of input from a lot of different sources. Of course at some point you have to have leadership and not just continue to just get input because you have to make decisions and follow through with those decisions.”
Leadership is about more than just getting your way, Holt explained. The key is to use reason and logic when approaching complex issues, while also keeping an open mind to the opinions of others.
“One of the main things as a leader is you have to spark everyone’s imagination,” he said. “You have to give them something that they can see as something they desire and also something that they buy into. … So it becomes their idea and their project and a part of their thinking, so then they can buy into it and help shape it. If you impose it, and just say this is what we are going to do, then it doesn’t work because they will resist it. Even if they like it they will resist it.”
Decades worth of experience in public policy have provided a wealth of knowledge and experience which Holt believes would be valuable on council.
“One of the reasons I am most interested in running is because I know that as a council member, I can affect change on another level,” Holt said. “On a board or a committee, I am working down here (below), on council I’m working up here (above), which deals with the various components that the boards and the committees are working on, but (also) look at the overall picture and get much more of an overview, instead of just being one specific thing. It doesn’t mean I’m going to quit some of the boards, but I want to be able to do more to affect change. “
Asked what the main issues he would like to address on council, Holt said keeping the transfer station and the No Frills open, eliminating heavy truck traffic in downtown Elmira, and maintaining and developing the public services people enjoy.
“I am at the point in my life when I have the time and energy to devote to being a part of the solution and I want to be able to contribute to the betterment of our community and the lives of people who live here,” Holt said. “I believe I have the ability to ask questions, listen, analyze the answers, and make decisions which will result in positive outcomes. I volunteer on various boards and committees in order to do just that and I want to continue to contribute in a direct way and with a broader scope.”