Four candidates are vying for vacant Council seat

Filed under: Headline,IN THE NEWS |

Nominations for the Ward 3 by-election, in the Town of Essex, closed on  Thursday, September 7.

Four individuals have put their names forward to fill the vacancy left behind by former Councillor Bill Caixeiro, who resigned earlier this summer. Running are (in alphabetical order): Rodney Hammond, Mike Jenner, Richard Kokovai, and Ron Rogers.

The winner of the by-election, that takes place on Monday, October 23, will hold the position until the 2018 election, when a new term of Council will be elected next fall.


Rodney Hammond against less representation
by Fred Groves

What Rodney Hammond lacks in experience in the political arena, he more than makes up for in enthusiasm.

Hammond, who is 57-years old, is one of four candidates slated to compete in a Ward 3 Essex by-election to take place on Monday, October 23.

“I have a lot of love and passion for the area and I have the ability to contribute,” Hammond said.

Single, he is employed as a cook at Kensington Court in Windsor. He has lived in Toronto and Vancouver before returning to the Colchester area.

Hammond’s biggest issue he is campaigning behind is the fact that the possible of boundary adjustments could mean that Ward 3, or Colchester, could be reduced from two to one councillors.

“I feel we are underrepresented out here, this area is growing,” he commented.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea at all,” he added of the possibility of less representation.

While the actual election is six weeks away, Hammond said he has already been on the campaign trail, going door-to-door where he says so far, the response has been positive.

Looking at the current council and administration, he said that the town needs to do a better job at informing people of what is going on in the municipality.

“I’d like to see a plan for the area. We’ve got unfinished business. We’ve got parking issues and undeveloped land issues,” he commented.
The winner of the byelection will sit at the council table for a year before the next general, municipal election in the fall of 2018.


Mike Jenner believes the time is right for positive change
by Adam Gault

Mike Jenner has announced his candidacy for the upcoming October 23 by-election for Ward 3.

Jenner has been a long-time resident of Colchester South. He and his wife are raising both his daughters in the community that they have spent more than 30 years in.

Having been involved in tooling for 34 years, he brings an experienced, business-minded skillset, having been involved in running his own business, working with community groups and minor sports, as well as his current position as plant manager at Laval International in Tecumseh for the last two-and-a-half years.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” explained Jenner of his desire to run in the upcoming by-election. “I was focused more on next year, 2018, but when the by-election opportunity came along, through my family’s encouragement, I decided it was time to go ahead and give it a go.”

Jenner also echoed a sentiment that seems to be held throughout parts of the municipality currently with regards to the ongoing Council issues.

“There are nights (council meetings), not all the time, but there are nights I feel this current group has lost focus,” Jenner continued. “My philosophy is, I know how to run a business, and I truly believe that this Town should be run like one. We’re talking about a $42 million dollar company that these people are running, and it should be treated as such.”

During his campaign, Jenner noted he has been moved by the positive response he has received from the citizens of Ward 3, explaining that his campaign has even attracted support from the sitting Ward 3 Councillor.

“Larry Snively has been very supportive, he’s been helping me, actually Bill Baker as well. They’ve been very influential they’re really mentoring me and I’ve appreciated that,” Jenner said.

Jenner stated Council should be more focused on growing the tax base, and do more to encourage new business and housing developments.
Additionally, Jenner feels the acquisition of the Harrow District High School should be a pressing issue for the Town of Essex.

“I see the use or the purchase of the Harrow High School as very important to the Town. (We) need that park and property, but it is very difficult to make a business case for the building.”

Jenner expressed satisfaction with the current administration’s handling of the Colchester Harbour and hopes a deal most benefiting to the town can be made for the marina going forward.

“Current council has done a great job. It’s turned into a very unique centrepiece down there. Now, do we want it? Should it be ours? And how much remediation can we make the feds pay for it before we take it? I think that’s important.”

Jenner believes the time is right for positive changes in the Town of Essex and is enthusiastic that he could play a strong role in that change.

“If we’re going to work on change and fresh ideas, I hope they’ll consider me,” Jenner said.


Richard Kokovai wants better transparency
by Sylene Argent

Ward 3 by-election candidate Richard Kokovai is no stranger to local municipal politics. He served three terms on Essex Council before amalgamation; at the time being the youngest elected to this Council at 22-years of age.

“I always had an interest in politics. I remember watching presidential conventions when I was seven or eight-years old. I find it fascinating,” he said.

The current opening on Essex Council urged Kokovai to put his name forward as a candidate with the hopes of being a representative again. The by-election, “Provided an opportunity for me to hopefully contribute to the community in a significant way,” he said. “It can be a rewarding experience.”

Kokovai noted he is semi-retired now, so he has the time needed to devote himself to the position.

Kokovai has been a resident of the Harrow area for around four years. He said he is open to residents letting him know about the issues that matter to them. As a newer resident of that area, he said he may not have the background some of the long-term residents have on some issues, “But I am a fast learner who will represent people of the area on those issues, and bring them forward at Town Council.”

Though Kokovai said he does not have a bone to pick, he does believe Council has some room for improvement.

“One thing they can improve on is transparency,” he said, adding he would like to see more explanation on why things are done and the way they are handled. It is easy for a municipal council to get into a mode it doesn’t necessarily want to have to provide explanations, he added.
He used the resent dismissal of former Essex CAO Tracey Pillon-Abbs as an example. He said it is true through the Municipal Act to conduct business like that in closed sessions, but he believes that is for fairness in the negotiation process. Once an agreement is kept, he said he thinks Council has an obligation to provide taxpayers a reason on why they did what they did because they are the ones paying the bill.

During his last term on Council, Kokovai said he wrote a newsletter that was available at a local convenience store that outlined Council meeting minutes and how each rep voted.

“It is critical we have transparency when conducting affairs for the municipality,” he said.

If elected, Kokovai said he will spend a lot of time learning about matters coming down the pipeline for the municipality before he starts any initiatives of his own. If he is successful, and if decided to run again in the 2018 election, he said there would be no learning curve then.

Most recently, Kokovai worked with the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit for fifteen years in the tobacco area, working matters like political advocacy and enforcement of smoke free bylaws and education.


Ron Rogers wants to be a positive voice
by Sylene Argent

Candidate Ron Rogers has 11 years of experience as a municipal rep. He was a Councillor with Colchester South prior to amalgamation and spent four years on Essex Council after amalgamation. In the past two elections, he vied for the Mayoral seat, coming in second place both times.

“I have the experience people can count on to have level-headed discussion with Council,” he said, adding he is itching to get back on Council to help out. He has kept up to date with current issues.

“What really frustrates me is that I am not there taking part in [making decisions].” He added that much of the road map for 2018 will be laid out by the time this vacant seat is filled, but he wants to be, “A voice on Council and add something positive to the discussion and debate. You’re not going to change the world the last year of mandate, but what I am hoping to do is have as much of a positive influence on the Council issues that are going to affect ratepayers as I can.

“It is gratifying when something comes to fruition that impacts people positively,” Rogers said. “I voted in the past on the right thing to do. [When voting,] I tried to have the most positive impact on the greatest number of those affected on the issue.”

There are a couple of the files Rogers is particularly proud of having a part of during his past experience as a Councillor including acquiring the additional land the park sits upon in Colchester. The second includes the “Essex Works” program implemented shortly after the economic crash of 2008. He explained Council used reserve money to provide employment opportunities for a number of residents who had been hit hard and were not eligible for employment benefits. The program had categories for mature recipients and students. The third is when he was a part of Colchester South Council, it was given an infrastructure grant and the funds were used to place streetlights in rural areas.

Even though the position will represent Ward 3 at the Town of Essex’s decision-making table, Rogers noted that individual will represent the entire municipality.

“What makes a municipality quite liveable is infrastructure, not necessarily parks and recreation,” Rogers said, adding some of the most important things are quality of roads and drainage. Rogers particularly likes the Town’s Community Improvement Plans.

Rodgers wonders why Essex is not doing as well in growth, population-wise in new housing starts, as neighbouring municipalities. “We’re not stagnant, but not growing with the impact our neighbours are.” He believes part of that is promotion of the Town. He would like to see the entire region get better promoted for tourism opportunities.

Rogers wants to ensure taxpayers’ dollars are spent in a reasonable way, and to see Council make more decisions without using consultants as much.

Rogers said his sense of community comes from his parents, who were both involved with different organizations. Rogers is the Chairperson of the Communities in Bloom Committee, Chairperson of the John R. Park Advisory Committee, and President of ACCESS. He was also on the recent planning committee for the Town’s “Get your Red and White on” event.