Long-time municipal politician Richard Stephens will again be seeking Central Manitoulin’s top spot on October 27 after a neck and neck race with incumbent mayor Gerry Strong last election. The two will once again go head to head in the polls next month.
Mr. Stephens was first elected as reeve of Central Manitoulin in 2003 where he stayed in office until 2010—the last election. “I came up short by about 110 votes, before that I had been acclaimed in every election,” he said.
The reason for first getting involved in Island politics, Mr. Stephens explained, was his role with Community Living Manitoulin in their quest for assisted living accommodations.
The initiatives that began in 2003 under his leadership have continued through the various councils, he said, beginning with Central Manitoulin’s aging infrastructure. Key bridges were replaced under his watch with the reconstruction of Yonge Street and the Mindemoya Drain beginning during his time as reeve and ending under the current council’s watch, he shared.
The Welcome Centre in Mindemoya is also something he is proud of, saying it “serves the community well, “ providing tourists with information on the municipality and the Island as a whole.
Central Manitoulin, arguably the most ‘booming’ municipality on the Island, is still growing “and we’ve got the infrastructure for it and people who are quite amenable to it.”
While he “feels badly” that communities like Providence Bay and Sandfield are not part of this boom, Mr. Stephens said it is important to continue to make Central Manitoulin agreeable to business and growth.
Mr. Stephens has also been involved with minor hockey and sat as chair of the Manitoulin Municipal Association for a number of years.
“The biggest question I get all the time is, ‘Why are our taxes so high’?” he said. True to his accounting background, Mr. Stephens has crunched the numbers over the last 10 years and found that property taxes have doubled.
“We do have to take a look at assessments and tax increases,” he concluded. “I don’t have a comment on whether it’s good, bad or indifferent, but it is something that needs to be looked at for sure.”