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Former Penetang mayor vying for Barrie council's top seat

'I gave it some serious thought, have been chewing on it for a while, and threw my name in the ring,' says Gerry Marshall
20170109 Simcoe County Warden Gerry Marshall KA
Gerry Marshall is shown in a file photo during an announcement at Georgian College. | Kenneth Armstrong/Village Media

And then there were three again.

Gerry Marshall filed his nomination papers Thursday to be Barrie’s next mayor, just days after Coun. Natalie Harris withdrew from the race.

“I gave it some serious thought, have been chewing on it for a while, and threw my name in the ring this morning,” he told BarrieToday.

Marshall joins Alex Nuttall and Rob Haverson as candidates in the Oct. 24 city election.

Incumbent Jeff Lehman, Barrie’s mayor for 12 years, has said he will not be on the ticket this time, running instead for the provincial Liberals in the Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte riding in the June 2 election.

To say Marshall has experience in local politics is an understatement.

He is the former mayor of Penetanguishene, a post he held from 2010 until 2018, and former Simcoe County warden, from 2014 to 2018. Marshall also ran as the Liberal candidate in Simcoe North in the 2018 Ontario election and in Barrie’s Ward 3 byelection in 2020.

“Having lived in the city now for a number of years, you start to get a sense of the city and the population and the growth,” said the 66-year-old resident of north-end Barrie. “I looked at the council makeup and I have some qualities I thought would add value to our city.

“I’m used to managing a council with budgets in the hundreds of millions, staff in the hundreds, managing growth and transit. I thought I had some skills I could bring to the table," he added. 

And Marshall has done his homework. He’s done some focus groups, talked to residents, to get an idea of the issues from one end of the city to the other  noting the challenges in the north end of Barrie are different than those in the south, and east versus west. Infill development in the north end, for example, while it’s traffic and growth in the city’s south end.

“It’s a big city with a wide footprint,” Marshall said. “You need to get your head around what I call the larger, all-encompassing issues like taxes and transit and costs, but then you need to get your head around the hyper-local issues for each of the wards and what’s important to people in those wards.”

Growth, of course, has long been one of Barrie’s larger issues and Marshall said he’s aware of the ramifications.

“I think structured growth, for sure,” he said of his priorities. “There’s a sense the city is growing faster than we’re ready for and there’s a concern there. We want to make sure when we’re growing we… that we properly plan to accommodate that growth, because that growth is coming. 

“I always say you have to think long before you think short, you need to look at where you want to be in 15 or 20 years from now.”

Marshall said he gets the feeling from long-term residents, however, that Barrie is losing its small-city feel. 

“I want to make sure as we grow, we’re still part of a community from one end of Barrie to the other and have that feeling of inclusiveness,” he said.

Marshall is the executive director of the production team at Northern Shield Development. A Barrie company, it takes shipping containers and turns them into affordable housing units. 

The Oct. 24 city vote 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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