Ward 2 in Woolwich Township will see an election race this year, as there are two candidates vying for a seat at the council table.
Fred Redekop, a Mennonite pastor at Poole Mennonite Church, and previously Floradale Mennonite, is the incumbent seeking re-election. He is campaigning against Eric Schwindt, a swine breeder with Genex Ontario who lives just outside Elmira. He is also the past chair of Ontario Pork.
“Being in the pandemic for more than half the term made (being on council) a different experience,” Redekop said to The Observer via email. “I have more to learn about and offer to the community.
“One thing I have learned is that we have to work well together at the council and staff level to get things accomplished.”
Redekop said he feels the main issue facing Woolwich Township now is “to balance growth in housing with the need to keep agricultural land in production.
“A second issue is to continue to be a progressive community on environmental concerns,” he added.
When it comes to addressing the rising cost of living, Redekop says it will require a “consensus-building approach in conversation with business and government. As with the pandemic, we have to be able to adapt quickly, listening to all voices.
“I have been a community-oriented person, coaching sports, serving on local boards and supporting local agencies, so I feel I know the community well to serve as a township councillor,” he said.
In that, he’s being challenged by Schwindt, who was one of the first candidates to file in the Woolwich election.
“I’ve always lived in the township. I live on my family farm I grew up on, so it’s important to me and my family that Woolwich continues to thrive,” he said of his motivation to run.
“Woolwich is growing, so we’ve got to balance off on the planning side growth and our farm heritage, so protecting farmland but allowing farmers to continue their businesses. Striking that balance between farming, urban, and on-farm businesses is important to me.
“Second thing that’s important to me is the financials of the township. As we grow, we seem to have more and more costs, obviously, for running the township. I think it’s important for council to spend time understanding the budget – where the money has been spent, why more money’s being spent here or there – to make better-informed decisions and have conversations about that. My biggest frustration over time has been the lack of that conversation or questioning of where we’re at,” he said.
Schwindt says he wants to see more engagement from council. “I’m committed to paying attention and understanding the issues. I’m going to be at those meetings with questions and then looking to improve decisions.”
When it comes to dealing with the rising cost of living, he says people need to first understand how they are spending their money and then prioritize their spending appropriately.
“For myself, personally and for my business, the first thing you do is understand how you’re spending your money. When you understand how you’re spending it, at the same time you look at, is that a priority for you? Or should it change the way you spend that money? Can you do that task in a better, more efficient way?”
Voting in Woolwich Township begins over the phone and online October 14. Election Day with paper ballots, as well as via internet and phone, is October 24.
“My number-one hope is people will be engaged in the fall and think about the issues and how they want to be represented. And if they’re looking for someone who’s prepared to do the work and being engaged I hope they consider me,” said Schwindt.
“We live in a great and prosperous community where local government and staff must continue to listen well to the community so we can continue to flourish in Woolwich Township,” said Redekop.