It took months for Graham Blair to decide to throw his well-worn political hat into the ring and go after the title of Reeve in Wollaston Township. That’s just how he operates. He thinks things through, considers what the impact will be and then he quietly, without fanfare, makes a decision and takes action.
This is part of the a new sense of calm that Graham Blair hopes voters might just be looking for.
Blair has been a member of council for 11 years and he’s worked with a diverse team during his consecutive terms. Blair admits that the last four years were the hardest with fights, threats, the untimely firing of a CAO who was leading the charge on economic development and then of course, there were ensuing legal tangles that faced the municipality.
Drama and negative publicity are things Blair says need to go. He cares deeply about Wollaston Township and part of running for Reeve is his way of trying to make a fresh start for the community that he calls home.
Blair noted this point gently in his recent speech at a community meeting. It was something that he struggled with – not wanting to be negative but needing to be honest. For those who saw some of what he referenced first-hand, it was validation.
“I want to work with a team that can agree to disagree,” Blair says in reference to behaviour around the council table. “I will insist on an atmosphere of respect. I want to work with a team that can agree to disagree without threats, without name calling and without drama.”
Blair has worked for many years as a local realtor and in this role he’s been an unofficial ambassador to the region. He’s helped many residents with what is often the biggest financial investment of a lifetime and Blair is proud of the relationships that he has built as a result.
His understanding of real estate, land planning, zoning and taxation make him an asset to our council.
“I want to help enable reasonable development of the recreational assets that our vast tracts of vacant land have to offer so as to increase our tax base,” Blair explains. “In other words – keeping tax increases to a minimum by developing an abundant resource.”
When asked about the challenges that lie ahead, Blair speaks quietly, slowly, thinking before proceeding and finally says managing expenses and finding ways to create revenue are big challenges. The municipality has to manage some big ticket items like road maintenance, staff wages, the fire department, the waste site, the ever challenging police budgeting model and our local waste site. We need revenue to do this.
Another challenge, and one that greatly concerns Blair, is what happens if he is not elected Reeve.
“I think there is some confusion about the role of the Reeve,” Blair says cautiously. “The Reeve is there to preside over council meetings, to support the members of council and make sure they are heard. The Reeve has to take direction from council and has to communicate effectively across the council table, in the community and to the upper levels of government and at official functions.”
Blair puts emphasis on the fact that the Reeve does not lead. The Reeve facilitates the process. If you’re not able to work as a member of a team or if you can not operate in a transparent manner there are going to be problems. Blair wants backroom negotiations gone and he wants to minimize closed session meetings. Blair also commits to allowing delegations who make the effort to attend council the opportunity to express themselves.
“I want to get to a point where ratepayers understand how and why council makes the decisions it makes,” Blair says.
As for declaring conflicts, Blair says he’s always considering when and if he needs to make a declaration that would effectively remove him from discussion and votes at council. They are rare for Blair but he’s still always looking.
“If you can see in the future that you will have to keep declaring a conflict when it comes to staffing and budgets, which make up a big part of the regular business of council, things will get a bit tricky,” Blair says. “I think I will be able to fully participate in the process – but I will always be looking for anything that I need to disclose or declare.”
And that really describes what Blair is about. He’s always looking ahead, thinking about the options and considering the impact for the community.
“There are really no surprises with me,” Blair says. “I am predictable and some might consider that a bit lacklustre but that’s OK. I make my well thought out points in council and out in the community without a lot of fanfare. I think you know what you get with me.”
With a couple of weeks left in the race Blair admits that he’s more of a working politician and that he’s never been really comfortable with campaigning.
“I’m kind of a quiet guy and I don’t like invading people’s privacy to talk about myself,” he says. “But I’m going to some meetings and I’m doing some interviews and I hope it gets the message across that I value the support and trust that people place in me. I want to be the next Reeve of Wollaston Township because I want this municipality to enjoy peace and prosperity.”