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Ward throws hat in ring for Barrie mayor

'The job is now open, so I think I can continue a lot of the good things we’ve started under (Mayor) Jeff Lehman,' says Barry Ward
Barry Ward announces Wednesday he's running for Barrie mayor.

Barry Ward wants to reach for the top of this city’s political ladder.

After almost 22 years on city council, Ward announced Wednesday he’s running for mayor in the Oct. 24 municipal election.

He sees it as an opportunity.

“The job is now open, so I think I can continue a lot of the good things we’ve started under (Mayor) Jeff Lehman,” Ward said. “I’d like to see them continue. They’re all part of Mayor Lehman’s legacy.”

He mentioned the task forces on housing affordability, the downtown market precinct and a new performing arts centre.

“I guess I’ve actually liked the job Mayor Lehman did,” Ward said. “I was surprised when he ran (for mayor) as early as he did (2010). But after he won, I think he’s been a good mayor for the City of Barrie and if Jeff had run again I would not have run against him.”

Lehman announced earlier this year he was running for Liberal MPP in the Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte riding, but he lost to incumbent Progressive Conservative MPP Doug Downey in the June 2 provincial election.

Lehman, Barrie’s mayor for almost 12 years, has said he’s not running for re-election, or even a seat on city council.

Ward joins Alex Nuttall, Rob Haverson and Gerry Marshall, who have filed nomination papers to run for mayor.

Ward filed his nomination papers at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Ward, 64, has been Ward 4 councillor since 2000, and is Barrie’s longest-serving member of council. He has been deputy mayor for council’s last term, as appointed by council, and was acting mayor while Lehman campaigned provincially.

Now Ward is taking aim at the big chair for the next four years.

He announced his intentions Wednesday afternoon in front of Bohemia on Dunlop Street East, in Barrie’s downtown.

He said he wants to be a mayor for all residents: young and old, rich and poor, business owners, workers, drivers, cyclists and pedestrians, homeowners, renters, and the homeless.

“I am a firm believer that a city becomes great when all residents have the ability to live a full life, one in which they can pursue their dreams,” he said. “The city’s job is to help make that possible, or at least not get in their way.”

Ward says he will not be an agent of change if elected.

“I’m not going to stand here and say I’m running to make big changes. I actually think Barrie is a great place to live. It has been my home for almost 40 years,” he said. “I think most Barrie residents love their city — in fact, just try to change things and you’ll discover how much they love the way things are.

“So, I’m running to preserve and enhance the things we love about Barrie: our magnificent waterfront, our parks, our natural areas, our wonderful neighbourhoods, our diversified economic base,” he said. “We are one of the safest cities in the country and our crime rate is one of the lowest. I want to keep it that way.”

Ward said he would bring his own type of leadership to the next Barrie council, if elected mayor.

“I’m a big believer that you lead, not by telling people what to do but by example,” he said. “It’s no different than how you should provide leadership in your family, not by telling your children how to behave but getting their respect by being the type of person you want them to be.

“Even if I don’t agree with the particular stand of another council member, I try to respect it,” Ward said. “I might criticize their ideas, but I don’t attack them personally and I don’t let it influence the way I deal with the next item they bring forward. Every issue gets treated for its own merit. I don’t like fireworks.

“Calm and steady is my preferred way to go. I think I’ve earned the respect of my fellow councillors.”

Ward laid out how he would address some of the larger issues every council faces — growth, jobs and taxes. 

“Who wouldn’t want to freeze property taxes?” he said. “They are a fairly unprogressive form of taxation, in that they aren’t necessarily tied to how much money you have, so we should be very cautious with how much we raise them and I think we’ve done a pretty good job of keeping increases to a minimum over the past decade.

“But I’ve also found Barrie residents don’t like it when we cut services, and that’s the only way you can freeze taxes,” he said. “We’d have to find millions in savings to freeze taxes as our city grows and inflation adds to our expenses. The alternative is to cut services, which … won’t fly with a lot of residents. We have to spend money just to maintain our level of service.”

Ward said Barrie is going to grow a great deal in the years to come.

“We couldn’t stop it even if we wanted to. Existing neighbourhoods will be impacted,” he said. “I believe our job as council will be to minimize those impacts.”

He said he’d love to see a booming economy and companies moving to Barrie.

“But most of all, I want to create a city where existing businesses are encouraged to grow and entrepreneurs feel confident in pursuing their ideas,” he said. “I believe it is equally important to have a city where businesses want to be, where young entrepreneurs want to live.

“That means providing the services such as arenas, concert halls and parks for them to enjoy. That means having housing which they and their employees can afford,” Ward said. “One of the most frequent complaints I hear from business owners is their inability to attract and hold onto workers. If we don’t provide affordable housing, it will be hard to attract jobs.”

Ward said he will outline a full platform in the coming weeks, but there are obvious areas that need to be addressed — such as Barrie’s housing crisis, affordable and supportive housing, and working with other levels of government to help fund housing.

Ward and Marg Bruineman, a local journalist, have raised their two sons in the north end of Barrie, where they have lived for more than 25 years. Ward is a former small business owner and currently works as an editor.

The Oct. 24 election will determine the next Barrie mayor, 10 ward councillors, and school board trustees.

The nomination period for candidates closes Aug. 19 at 2 p.m.

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