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Just one newcomer seeking a seat on Woolwich council

Currently a trustee and chair of the Waterloo Region District School Board, Scott McMillan will be running in October’s election for a seat Woolwich council. McMillan is, so far, the only newcomer running for office in the township. [Faisal Ali / The Observer[

Scott McMillan was elected in 2014 as the voice for Woolwich and Wellesley townships on Waterloo Region District School Board. Four years later, and McMillan is once again seeking a public mandate, only this time from the residents of Woolwich Ward 1 (Elmira) to serve as a township councillor.

As of yesterday, McMillan is one of three candidates to have entered their name into race for Ward 1, which represents the township’s populous Elmira area and has two seats on the council. There are still two weeks left in the nomination period, however, which ends July 27 at 2 p.m., and people may still submit their applications to run in the election until then.

“I really enjoy municipal politics,” said McMillan, an Elmira resident and native, about his reasons for running for council.

“I think it’s where the rubber meets the road, it’s where you get the opportunity to have a direct impact on people’s lives,” he explained. “It’s why I enjoy being involved in elected politics at this level, so that’s why I’m running for council to try and help people and the try and make a direct impact on the lives of people in Woolwich Township.”

While being a familiar name of the ballot, McMillan may still face an uphill battle as he takes on two current incumbents, Patrick Merlihan, and Julie-Anne Herties, both of whom are seeking another term.

Although currently a councillor, Herteis did not run for the position in the last municipal election. Rather, she was appointed to the position earlier this year when Scott Hahn stepped down in January due to time constraints. Herteis previously served as Woolwich councilor from 2010 to 2014, but did not seek reelection in 2014.

In the running for Woolwich mayor, incumbent Sandy Shantz currently remains uncontested in the race.

In Woolwich Ward 3, the area covering the south-eastern half of the township including the settlements of Breslau, Maryhill, Conestogo, Winterbourne and West Montrose, so far only the ward’s two incumbent have filed their nomination papers. Ward 3, like Ward 1, has two seats on township council.

Both Murray Martin and Larry Shantz will be running for reelection. Shantz will seeking his second term on the council, while Martin previously served as councillor from 1994 to 2010, then since 2014.

Ward 2, meanwhile, is still bereft of contenders. Longtime councillor Mark Bauman plans to retire. The ward, which covers the northwestern half of the township, excluding Elmira, has only one seat on the council.

Having served for the past four years as a school board trustee, two years of which were spent as the board chairperson, McMillan notes how the role has helped prepare him for the responsibility of councillor. He points to previous school board chairs who had benefited from the experience and gone on to excel in politics, such as Mayor Sandy Shantz and Kitchener-Conestoga MP Harold Albrecht.

With a constituency of 460,000, supporting 60,000 students and 8,000 employees, and a budget of $760-million – second only in size to the regional government itself – he says he’s prepared for a new role.

“I think that that ability to sit there at that table, and make decisions that affect 460,000 people, and have tens of millions of dollars riding on those decisions, I think it creates a level of confidence that can help when you’re at a table like Woolwich Township. So I think my experience at the school board is the thing that distinguishes me against the people who are so far nominated to run in Ward 1,” he said.

The nomination period is open for another two weeks, and with one seat currently uncontested, there is ample opportunity for other newcomers to join the fray and give a go at municipal politics.

Training is provided for newcomers on council, while role of township councillor is generally scheduled with the expectation that councillors may work their own fulltime jobs.

“I think that is one thing that people sometimes don’t realize,” says township deputy clerk Jeff Smith, about the time constraints of being a councilor. “So our meetings are at 7 p.m., we usually have two to three meetings a month. But council members also typically have to do a lot of reading for those meetings.”

There are further details on the requirements and expectations of municipal politicians on the Woolwich website, notes Smith, while anyone interested in learning more are also encouraged to reach out to the township for more details.

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