‘There’s nobody there who’s afraid of hard work’

New CBS councillors excited at prospect of next four years

By Craig Westcott/October 7, 2021

Last week’s election results in CBS spelled vindication for some, redemption for others and an opportunity for newcomers to make a mark on their town’s future.

For Rex Hillier, who garnered the most votes among the 10 people who ran at-large, the result verified that most voters were in support of council’s handling of the proposal to fill in part of Long Pond harbour for a new wharf, fish plant and cold storage operation. A couple of citizens groups tried to make that issue the main one in the election, but most voters remained unconvinced.

Hillier pointed out that he and fellow incumbent at-large councillor Christine Butler seesawed back and forth all night as the results came in and it was uncertain who would actually end up with the most. They both took in over 3,000 votes.

“Most of the people of this town realized that they had a good four years with this (previous) council and the incumbents’ (results) showed it,” said Hillier, noting that Ward 3 incumbent Gerard Tilley also retained his seat while former Ward 1 representative Darrin Bent was overwhelming elected mayor.

“I’ve been on four councils,” said Hillier, “and I would say that council was as good or the best that I’ve sat on in terms of cohesiveness and trust, because it’s all about trust. If you can’t trust the fellow sitting next to you on any given night, this can’t work. I thought we did some good things.”

Hillier said some people thought that when the previous council was elected four years ago there would be a rift in the chamber because the then mayor, Terry French, is a former PC MHA and cabinet minister, councillor-at-large Cheryl Davis is the wife of former PC premier Paul Davis, and Hillier is a former provincial Liberal candidate. But those people were proved wrong. Davis didn’t run for re-election, but she texted her congratulations to Hillier on election night.

“It was a group,” said Hillier, “and I’m hoping this group will be the same. And there’s no reason why it wouldn’t be. There are some really good people there, people who have proven themselves in other aspects of the town and in volunteer work, there are some new faces, and some old faces back. So, I’m looking forward to it, really. There’s nobody there who’s afraid of hard work. Everybody there has done their thing around town and proven themselves tonight.”

Hillier said everyone wants the new council to get off to a good start and having Bent in the chair as mayor is conducive to that. 

“Darrin has been there, and he knows what the issues are right now, and he’s in tune with the people and he’s been given a great mandate in terms of the votes that he got,” said Hillier.

For Paul Connors, who was also elected at-large, the election result was a redemption of sorts. Connors had been a councillor in the 2013 – 2017 chamber but was narrowly defeated in the large field of candidates who turned out for the 2017 vote.

Not only was this victory sweet for Connors, but the campaign itself was special as it gifted him with time and support from his large family of siblings and in-laws who did everything from work the phones to hammer in signs for his campaign.

“Very, very pleased sir,” Connors said, unable to hide a smile in his voice when contacted about the result. “I’m glad to be back at it again… I just want to thank people for voting for me. It’s humbling, to be honest, when you get elected to know that people are putting their support and faith in you to be able to do some good for the town, and I take it very seriously.”

Connors said it’s an opportunity to resume work on projects and issues that he had to walk away from in 2017.

“I’m definitely going to be bringing the ATV trail to the table,” Connors said. “I made a promise to the responsible ATV users in the town that I would be their voice at the table and that’s something I will certainly be working on on their behalf. There is a committee already set up now, but I want to see that committee continue and hopefully get that trail in place. There are many other issues as well. I heard a lot about (the need for) traffic calming on the streets and of course there are always the sidewalk issues and just safety on our streets. And there are parts of the community where there’s still no water and sewer and that’s a huge issue as well that we need to address. We’ve come a long way but there are still people in our community who don’t have access to water and sewer.”

Connors allowed some pockets of town may be a challenge to service, “but people deserve access to water and sewer.”

As for the election itself, Connors said it was a clean campaign amongst all the candidates. “The people who I dealt with stuck to the issues and people were supporting each other,” he said. “It was a very clean campaign in my opinion.”

Another candidate for whom the results were a form of vindication was Ward 1 winner Shelley Moores. She placed strongly atop a field of three that included Shannon Duff and Valerie Barter. This past winter, Moores ran provincially for the Liberals in the District of Conception Bay South against battle hardened PC incumbent Barry Petten. 

“I can’t even put it into words,” Moores said of this win on election night. “We gave it all we had, me and my team and I really wanted to go to every door and speak to as many people (as possible). I just had so many positive conversations and people were so supportive and I’m just appreciative of that now and I can’t wait to get to work for Ward 1. I’m so excited.”

Moores admitted that finding a chance to serve the public is personally important to her, enough to run again so soon after the loss to Petten. 

“My entire life I’ve been involved in things,” said Moores. “Even when I was in high school, I was on the school council and it’s always been important to me to be involved and to give back to my community. Ever since I’ve lived in CBS it’s been a priority for me, it’s just something I want to do, to be involved and give back. I ran in provincial politics and it wasn’t the outcome I was looking for, but it didn’t turn me, it just made me want it even more. I just want a way to give back and I’m very excited now that I’m part of the council in CBS.”

Moores said she heard many issues while going door to door. The ones that stand out include better road safety for children, the need for economic growth, and the need for a community centre so families don’t have to leave town to participate in some sports. “Those will be some of the top things that I’ll be looking at,” she said. “And of course transparency for the council, because as we all heard throughout this election, a lot of people weren’t happy, they felt a lot of things weren’t transparent and I really think we need to start off fresh and make sure everyone realizes that we are going to be a transparent council and we are going to move forward in a positive way.”

Moores thanked her two contenders for running. “I think it’s absolutely fantastic that we had three female candidates in Ward 1. I think there’s a lot to be said for that, and it was a very clean and respectful race for all three of us. I just want to congratulate Val and Shannon on a great race and I hope they don’t not want to run again. We should always encourage women to run and I think it was great that we had three in Ward 1.”

For Ward 4 winner Melissa Hardy, a mom of two girls who topped the poll in a field that included veteran municipal administrator Maureen Harvey and political newcomer Mike Petten, the election result presents an opportunity to address some issues she has been concerned about for a while.

“I’m very excited and I think it’s going to be a very interesting four years,” said Hardy, who was born and raised in Foxtrap, but is now living in Upper Gullies.

Hardy said she decided to run because she wants to see a few things change. “Every week we end up going to a different municipality just trying to get some more activities for the kids,” she said. “As families and as parents you get a little frustrated at always going to another municipality when your municipality is so beautiful, you really want to stay home on the weekends. And my niece has Downs Syndrome, so we’re always going to a park that’s inclusive for her. So, it’s pretty important for us to make sure that diversity and inclusion is there. It’s a big part of our lives.”

Like Connors, Hardy is planning on making water and sewer a top issue and well as an ATV trail. She also wants to find ways to get seniors back socializing after the long period inside because of the pandemic.

“I heard a lot of that at the doors,” Hardy said, “the seniors just want to get back out into the community and be able to do different things. They are cost-constrained from their budget perspective and they just want to be included as well.”

Hardy, who was interviewed the morning after the election, said she hadn’t had a chance to size up the rest of council, but she is excited to see more diversity at the table. Including herself, three of the four ward councillors are women. From what I’ve been told, I think I’m the first female in Ward 4,” she added. “Also, just to have more women at the table, moms at the table, different perspectives, whether you’re a business owner or (work with) a non-profit, or what have you, it’s just that different perspective. It’s going to be so exciting and so interesting. I’m very, very excited.”

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