By Mark Squibb/September 16, 2021
Residents in Ward 3 will get to choose between council veteran Gerard Tilley and sports coach and volunteer Jeff Fagan in the upcoming municipal election.
Tillery had considered a run for the mayor’s seat, but said in the end he didn’t feel as though he could totally commit to the role due to his work schedule.
“I received a lot of calls, and a lot of people were suggesting that maybe I should take a run for the mayor’s chair and I did give it serious thought,” said Tilley. “And I always say, that if I can’t give 100 percent to running for the mayor’s chair, I won’t run for it. And with my career in Eastern Health as a frontline responder to the COVID pandemic, it got really busy. I’ve been in charge of a lot of the logistics of those ships you see out in Conception Bay. And that took up a fair chunk of my time and I knew deep down that I couldn’t give that 100 percent that was required to run for the mayor, so maybe I should stick with the ward position for now.”
Tilley’s opponent, Jeff Fagan, was born and raised in Foxtrap, moved to Kelligrews in 2017 with wife and sons Tyrus, Nolen and Rory.
He has been active in the sports community for decades, having coached hockey, softball, baseball, soccer, and ball hockey. He has also served on the CBS Minor Hockey executive, the 2011 Kraft Hockeyville committee, and the CBS Ice Surface committee, which successfully lobbied government for the construction of the new CBS Arena. Outside of the sports community, Fagan has organized fundraisers for the Janeway, Autism Association, and other groups throughout the years, and was a CBS Citizen of the Year finalist in 2019.
He said his time spent serving the community has prepared him for the role of councilor.
“We dealt with government for four years, meeting with the federal government or provincial government at the drop of a hat,” he said of the lengthy process involved in securing the new arena. “There’s no good in butting heads.”
Fagan believes there could be more avenues of communication opened between council and residents.
“My plan is to have quarterly or bi-annual meetings with the ward, so people can come and express their views,” said Fagan. “So at least they know what’s happening, rather than just reading about it on social media, which is flawed with negativity, or in The Shoreline,” he said. “At least people see how things are being done, and that nothing is being done behind closed doors.”
Fagan would also want to see minutes of committee meetings made available to the public, and maybe even record some of those meetings.
“I would want to give people the information on this is how meetings are run, this is how the decisions were made, this is why a decision was made,” said Fagan. “A video would show people that. And with media these days, you can get that out as easy as anything.”
Both candidates commented on the need to re-evaluate the Gateway Commercial Park, the 130-acre business park off Legion Road that has not done as much business as the town would have hoped.
“Gateway needs a full revamp,” said Fagan, who has worked in sales for over two decades, including 22 years with Pepsico. “There needs to be a full reset.”
As to drawing the big box stores, Fagan says it’s unlikely.
“We’re too close to the city to do anything big commercially,” said Fagan. “Being in sales, I’ve dealt with the Wal-Marts, I’ve dealt with the Costcos. I’ve dealt with them all, and they deal based on population and traffic, and unfortunately, we’re in the middle. So, we need to try something different.”
He would like to see a small committee of business-minded people formed to re-evaluate Gateway’s potential, whether as a commercial or industrial destination.
Tilley, meanwhile, said that while the town continues to talk with commercial developers, including potential supermarket bidders, no new plans have come to fruition yet, though he remains optimistic.
“Gateway has been there for a while, and it’s been hard work, I’ll be the first one to admit it,” said Tilley. “You hear things on social media that we’re turning down Wal-Mart, we’re turning down Costco, that’s just simply not the case. Our town has one of the best tax incentives for any major business that wants to come to CBS, and if Wal-Mart, for example, wants to come to Gateway, I’ll be the first one up there taking steel off the truck for them.”
Tilley said the town had once before hired a business attraction consultant to assess the Gateway situation, but he would like to address the issue at more of a grassroots level.
“Maybe we’re looking in the wrong direction, maybe we didn’t reach out to the proper people in the first place,” said Tilley. “But I think there are a lot of smart, local investors and contractors here that can wrap their head around something, and we’ll get something going at Gateway. So, if I get re-elected, I would like to change our focus a tiny bit,” said Tilley. “I would like to see Gateway not only as a commercial entity but, maybe we could look at the industrial side, or a mixed- density housing side. I’d like to sit down with our local realtors and our local developers, and say, ‘Guys, at the end of the day, what do you think should go there? Give us a plan.’”
As with his defense of the controversial Long Pond OCI development, Tilley cited the town’s ever-growing need for an ever-growing commercial tax base.
“Right now, only about 18 to 20 percent of our town’s revenue comes in from our commercial tax rate,” said Tilley. “This town can’t sustain what the residents require, what the residents want, just by having that percentage of commercial growth.”
Pedestrian safety, and in particular speeding, is among Tilley’s other major concerns that he would like to address in his fourth term.
“Speeding is, I’m not going to say ‘out-of-control,’ but speeding is rampant on every street in Conception Bay South. Every street,” said Tilley. “I would say that the single most requests and complaints that I get on a weekly basis is about speeding.”
Fagan, meanwhile, said that some decisions of council, such as the location of the new splash pad and community park in Long Pond, which he felt could have been in a better location, and the controversial Long Pond OCI decision, just haven’t made sense to him over the last couple of years.
He feels a more transparent way of doing business would better help residents understand how decisions are made.
“Maybe, when you get involved, you see why those decisions are made,” Fagan admitted. “But there’s nothing wrong with putting this out to public either, or saying, ‘This is why this decision was made.’ You’re never going to satisfy everybody, but as long as you can show them why something was done, at the end of the day they’ll know why it was done.”
Fagan has been thinking about running since the last election, suggesting there may be some complacency among some longstanding members of council
“You have guys that have been there for a few years that may be going through the motions, in my opinion,” said Fagan.
“I’ve got a good track record of being involved in the community, I’ve volunteered oodles and oodles of time, whether it be for the Kraft Hockeyville, which I was heavily involved in getting that off the ground – my buddy and I were the ones who applied and got it started – or coaching and different fundraisers I’ve put off just to help with different stuff. There’s a track record that shows I can be involved and make the right decisions,” said Fagan. “One of my buddies said, ‘Jeff, why are you running for council?’ And I said, ‘Well, I could go on facebook and comment and be negative, or I could run and maybe try to make a difference.’”
Tilley, meanwhile, points back to his first three successful bids for the seat.
“I love this community, I love helping people, this town is vibrant and it’s growing,” said Tilley. “There’s some work that we got done this past term and some work that I’ve still got to see through. And so that was one of my reasons for putting my hat back in for re-election. At the end of the day, I’m going for my fourth term, so the residents of Ward 3 have kindly put me there for three terms, so I must be doing something right.”
Residents will cast their votes on September 28.