The race for Wellesley’s Ward 3 is by far the most competitive in the township, with four candidates vying for the spot in October’s municipal election.
There are three hopefuls – Joyce Barker, Grant Kingsbury and Phillip Morris – looking to unseat incumbent Peter van der Maas.
The only other ward in the township with any competition whatsoever is Ward 2 with two candidates, as incumbent Herb Neher faces newcomer Mark Witmer. Candidates for wards 1 and 4, incumbents Shelley Wagner and Carl Smit respectively, have been acclaimed to their positions with no challengers. There are two candidates for the mayoralty, incumbent Joe Nowak and first-time candidate Bernia Wheaton.
One potential reason for the noticeable increase in candidates would be the rising population in Wellesley Township, suggests the incumbent mayor.
“From when I was there 38 years ago, the population in Wellesley has tripled in size,” said Joe Nowak. “There are around 3,000. I think when I moved there, it was under 1,000.”
“Wellesley is the biggest of the four wards because we’ve got the most construction, the most new residents coming up, and that’s just the way things go,” added van der Maas. “But there are still St. Clements, Linwood, Hawkesville, they all need representation and their fair share.
“When we first moved here, the kids had the bush to play in, you know. There was an old elm tree just over there, and the osprey would land in a tree and eat fish out of the pond. Now all of that for us is gone, or rather, has been pushed. So the biggest change I’ve seen is kind of a population change. And that changes the dynamic of a village.”
The job is part-time, according to van der Maas, although some issues can take longer to resolve than others.
“It’s really cyclical. It depends,” said van der Maas. “You’ve got your regular series of meeting that you have to attend. I think the first year, I actually kept a bit of a record of it. There were about 200 hours of formal meetings. So that includes council meetings, regional meetings. On top of that of course, there are all the informal meetings where you go to a residents house and see a few people, talk about this, etc.
“For example, last year when we were considering the sidewalks. We always send around a notice before something like that happens and people were quite concerned, so they contacted me, and I organized a meeting with all those who were interested in the community centre. And we sat down and talked about people’s concerns, and explained why we’re doing this and heard their objections or their support, whatever it is they wanted to offer. So things like that happen, depending on the issue.”
A prominent issue in the Township of Wellesley expressed by the candidates is both diverse and affordable housing.
“We have one house here in the village of Wellesley that’s under $600,000,” said Barker, who is a real estate broker. “After that, they’re all over $600,000. And what employment opportunities are there here that you could pay for that kind of house? There aren’t any. You can’t pay for a house like that with minimum wage. So affordable housing is definitely a key issue for me.”
“Perhaps the most important one is diverse housing,” added van der Maas. “We’re dominated by bungalows with granite counters that are designed for retirees and the middle class, childless couple. That’s nice for them, but it’s not healthy for a community if that’s the majority. So we need diverse housing.”
Another concern frequently voiced by candidates include improving the economy, and encouraging residents to shop locally.
Other newcomers include Retro Rollers owner Phillip Morris and lease broker Grant Kingsbury. The municipal election will take place on October 22.