Marg Isbester is hoping she can drop the “deputy” from her title in Greater Napanee this fall after declaring her intention to run for mayor on the first day of nominations Tuesday.
Isbester was the first person to Town Hall to file her paperwork to run as head of council, succeeding current Mayor Gord Schermerhorn that morning.
“I just decided I would be the first to file because I want people to know that I really take this job very seriously,” Isbester told the Beaver. “There’s lots more I would like to see completed and also started. After the time I served (on council), I’ve learned a lot about the workings in and out of government. I think I’d be a great asset to continue on for another term in the mayor’s chair.
The longtime local merchant said she sees infrastructure — the town’s wastewater treatment plant, in particular — as a priority for the next council to consider.
“We want to make sure we can get funding and get the plant into shape to look for more commercial and industrial expansion,” Isbester stated, noting with recent subdivision growth there is a need to upgrade the plant to meet the residential needs of an influx of new residents as well.
Road work continues to be an ongoing priority for the municipality and Isbester said with a potential change in provincial government, council may have to be ready to face changes to available funding. She stressed the need to work collaboratively with neighbouring municipalities to control costs.
Four years ago, the spectre of a pool was a focal point for many electors. Isbester said she is waiting for the final report from a steering committee studying the issue, but she’s open to the idea.
“We all would like one, but we have to be able to do it in a fiscally affordable way,” she said.
Isbester said the town can’t keep seeing people going out of the municipality for that type of fitness facility, but added the town is not going to be able to have a facility like the Quinte Wellness Centre. She said the current council has pushed to gather the necessary information to ensure councillors will be able to consider a proposal that meets residents’ needs.
Asked about tensions between the urban and rural communities as this council has worked to consider issues like tax-rate equalization and area-rating for policing, Isbester said she’d love to see the tension disappear, but she’s not sure it’s going to. She said it’s not an uncommon thing 20 years after amalgamation for municipalities with similar urban-rural splits to see the same thing.
“I’m one of the councillors that have looked at it on both sides. I try to be neutral about it, but I do have some strong feelings on some things,” she said, adding her objective is to find common ground.
Isbester said one of the positives related to that debate is civic engagement.
“People are much more aware of politics, aware of their tax bills, and aware of the services they want.”
She said she’d like to see a future council work as hard as this one or harder to find common ground and that she’s always been willing to listen to any concerns people have.
Isbester said she’s optimistic about growth and development, both uptown and downtown. On the latter, she said she supports the ongoing work to renew local infrastructure and hopes people will support businesses through it.
“Making it look ugly before we can make it pretty again is going to be worth it.”
Isbester said both areas add to a strong core area.
The two-term councillor said the nomination process was different this year as candidates are now required to gain 25 endorsements to be nominated. She’s worked over the past six weeks to talk to people and has greatly exceeded the requirements. Now, Isbester is ready to hit the campaign trail.
[Editor’s note: The above profile was published in May when Isbester entered the mayoral race. Given that other candidates have been profiled in the last two months after the campaign started, he has been given opportunity for a brief follow-up, posted below.]
Marg Isbester has been busy trying to reach as many constituents as she can leading up to Monday’s election, while finishing her work on town and county committees.
Thus far, she’s enjoyed the process and interaction level she has seen.
“The campaign trail has been great as usual,” she said. “People are very engaged this time. It makes it worth your while to get to every door and every function to speak to people.”
Isbester said issues like a perceived rural and urban divide, the possibility and price of an aquatics facility, development, and affordable housing continue to be priorities to be addressed. With respect to homelessness and housing, Isbester said she believes Greater Napanee and Lennox and Addington officials must play an active role and not wait an upper-level solution.
In her travels, one thing she says she’s learned more about is the potential value in attracting educational opportunities for youth and for others to improve their skills while continuing part-time work.
In her eyes, the key for a new council will be finding a balance to keep taxes at a reasonable rate without sacrificing services people depend on. It may also be a challenging term ahead dealing with potential provincial downloading.
From the mayor — which Isbester said is now a full-time job — it will take leadership, experience, and a willingness to listen to ratepayers and councillors.
“Leadership is key. It will be a brand new council there with just the possibility of three of us that can return,” she said. “Experience is going to be very important on this term of council. I don’t just bring that experience to the table, I bring a track record of achieving.”