-4.3 C
Wednesday, December 11, 2019
Connecting Our Communities

Ken Seiling to retire at end of term

Longtime regional chair’s decision not to seek re-election after 33 years at the helm opens up a race to fill the vacancy


Restored Victorian home in Elmira the subject of TV competition

Along with the influx of visitors that comes with the holiday season, Elmira will see one new...

New MP jumps to the next stage

Ever since he was elected as the new Liberal Member of Parliament for Kitchener-Conestoga during the October...

Meet the candidates

By Veronica Reiner & Aneta Rebiszewski Five candidates are vying for your vote in...

Historical Society Annual General Meeting

The 42nd Annual General Meeting of the Historical Society of St. Boniface and Maryhill Community was held...


overcast clouds
-4.3 ° C
-2.8 °
-6.1 °
85 %
90 %
-2 °
-3 °
2 °
4 °
3 °

Ken Seiling doesn’t have a handle on what he’ll be doing with his time when December rolls around, but he knows what he won’t be doing: sitting in the chairman’s office at the Region of Waterloo.

Seiling, 70, won’t be seeking re-election this fall, vacating the seat he’s held for 33 years. His retirement puts an end to a 42-year political career that dates back to his 1976 election to Woolwich council. The lifelong Elmira resident was then Woolwich’s mayor, joining regional council as chair in 1985 when the position was still filled by a vote among councillors. The office became directly elected by the public in 1997.

In more than four decades in politics, he’s seen plenty of change in Waterloo Region, much of it based on incessant growth. But it’s growth that’s been managed fairly well, he maintains, crediting predecessor Jack Young – the first chairman following the 1973 creation of the Regional Municipality of Waterloo – and the development of a growth master plan.

While there has been significant growth, the region can look to neighbouring municipalities to see the often-negative effects of much rapider growth – much of the GTA – and the perils of stagnation, as with some areas to the north and west. Waterloo Region has kept to a healthy middle ground, Seiling maintains.

“I got into politics so that my kids and grandkids could have the same kind of community that I had growing up here,” he said. “I think we’ve managed fairly well,”

The growth has allowed the region to become more self-sufficient, he said, noting that early on in his career he objected to direction such as high-speed rail that threatened to make the region a bedroom community for larger centres. Now, the region is an economic centre in its own right.

“The region is a much stronger place than we were 40 years ago.”

That’s due to people here being able to change with the times, he says. From agricultural and manufacturing – which still remain large parts of the economy – through to insurance and high-tech companies, businesses and people here have adapted.

“The region has weathered the ups and downs,” said Seiling. “The community keeps reinventing itself.”

He gives some credit to regional council for providing good stewardship of the growth and change.

Today, growth management focuses on curtailing sprawl, funnelling development into existing urban areas by increasing density and infilling projects. In that regard, the region has met its target of 50 per cent of growth going in that direction.

“We’re getting the kinds of results that we’d hoped for,” Seiling noted.

Beyond growth, Seiling points to the region’s support for arts and culture, housing and social welfare as areas where he can take pride in his tenure at the helm of regional council.

Housing, in particular, has proven to be a tricky file, he notes, as demand far outstrips the supply of affordable housing and the money to create new units.

Historically, the region has tried to make available funds go as far as possible, working with private developers, community agencies, non-profits and any other interested party.

“There’s always a large community effort in our housing work,” said Seiling. “But it’s never enough.”

Pointing to the long history of volunteer efforts to make housing and other social services more viable, Seiling says he’s worried about the future in that capacity. Changing demographics have put a damper on grassroots and NGO agencies – there are fewer volunteers, and groups are having trouble with fundraising.

Given that such organizations do work that the region could never afford to cover if holes start developing, the concerns are pressing, he said.

That’s an intractable problem that won’t be solved before his retirement. But he’ll have plenty to keep him busy before the term runs out November 30. After that? He’s not sure. Not golfing or fishing, those quintessential retirement activities, as he’s never had time for either.

Two people have made it official in vying for Seiling’s job in the October 22 election: current regional councillor Karen Redman and former Waterloo councillor Jan d’Ailly. Businessman Jay Aissa, who finished second to Seiling in the 2014 election, has indicated he’ll run again.

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to The Observer's online community. Pseudonyms are not permitted. By submitting a comment, you accept that The Observer has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner The Observer chooses. Please note that The Observer does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our submission guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.


Strong demand for traditional real Christmas trees can exceed supply

With Christmas just a few weeks away there’s only a short time left to pick out the perfect tree, but what will you choose: real or fake? Many retailers are facing dilemmas that...

In Print. Online. In Pictures. In Depth.

You obviously love community journalism. Thanks for visiting today. If you have a great local story, let us know.

Even those with jobs are increasingly reliant on food banks

An increasing number of full- and part-time workers across Ontario are accessing food bank services, a trend that can be seen in...

Getting drivers to slow down a slow process in Woolwich Township

Traffic issues, particularly speeding, are a frequent source of public complaints received by Woolwich officials. Often more perception than reality, the topic is...

Kings win another pair, solidify hold on first place

Seven is considered a lucky number. The Sugar Kings likely agree after putting up seven goals twice on route to a pair...

Putting the cold on ice with the annual hat and mitten toss at Saturday’s Sugar Kings game

There’ll be no need to wait until somebody scores three goals to toss hats out onto the ice, as the Elmira Sugar...

Woolwich to attach overdue water bills to property taxes in bid to simplify collections process

Looking to simplify the collection process for overdue water and sewer bills – and increase the chance of getting its hands on...

Jacks fall to second after losing twice over the weekend

Sunday’s lousy weather may not have been to everyone’s liking, but the Wellesley Applejacks might have been the only ones happy...
- Advertisement -