A Canadian military veteran who served overseas as a United Nations peacekeeper and a NATO peacemaker, Gavin Cross has made a life out of public service.
Now, he’s hoping to build on those experiences by serving as Greater Napanee’s next mayor. While stationed in Petawawa, he served two terms as a ward councillor, work he found incredibly satisfying. He decided he’d like to run for council in Napanee, the town he settled in 12 years ago after a second career with the Correctional Service of Canada.
Cross set out to get 25 nominations to run and found people were telling him to take a run at the head of council position this fall.
“Everybody I talked with said, ‘No, you need to run for mayor,’” he recalled.
After changing his paperwork, Cross has been on the campaign trail listening to people’s thoughts and opinions about what they might want to see changed.
“There has been a general consensus that they’re ready for a change and they’ve been impressed with my ability to listen and with my qualifications and with my training,” he said.
Cross said he can point to several good things the town has done that people are happy with — the Strathcona Paper Centre, for one — but says there’s a need for a changed approach.
“There’s a general level of dissatisfaction about other proposals and things that have been done with no consultation withe the public and no plan for the future,” he said. “A thing that was brought up to me was the closure of the outdoor pool eight or nine years ago. I heard some of the reasons, and that’s fine, but there was no plan in place to fix the need and desire in town for a pool. Now, there’s another plan in place for a pool that clearly needs to be researched more and have more input from the public is needed.’
Cross said, if elected, he’d like to see the town council become a conduit to connect citizens to other levels of government and other services that impact residents here as ultimately, those issues are town issues. He said to pass residents off to other jurisdictions is like “a brush off.”
“It’s the town’s responsibility to assist the person in making a proper connection with the Province or the County to address a problem.”
As a candidate, Cross has reached out to MPP Daryl Kramp and MP Mike Bossio for meetings.
At Town Hall, he said he plans to focus on fiscal accountability and oversight.
“There needs to be a little bit of common sense and fiscal responsibility within the town. People on town council have to realize it’s not their money. It’s all of our money,” he said. “Every single penny the town has available to do things is the community’s money. It has to be used responsibly and justifiably.”
One such example Cross questioned is whether municipal fleet vehicles need to be replaced every eight years. He also promised to carefully scrutinize budgetary requests in the future.
Included in Cross’s initial wish list of items for exploration are a solution for cross-town public transit and improvements to the town’s wastewater infrastructure, which he said includes addressing both the plant and the lines running to it. Maintaining infrastructure will be a key to development Cross says is likely ahead.
“Napanee is going to grow very quickly over the next few years. We need infrastructure in place to handle that growth,” he said. “We are in a prime place for both residential and small, medium, and large business growth. I think Napanee is going to boom in the next four years.”
Cross also said he wants to actively listen to people concerned about an urban-rural divide and brainstorm solutions to promote unity.
Overall, Cross said he is still working to craft a platform to take to voters — and that’s because his priority at this stage of the campaign is to learn.
“You can expect in the next couple weeks I’m going to be coming out with a campaign platform. Right now, my biggest thing is listening to the people and getting their thoughts on things,” he said. “I am really looking forward to listening to and getting to know our residents over the next few months — it is my goal to knock on every door and meet every resident of this beautiful town and area.”
Cross said he started that process meeting business owners and he’ll soon move on to residents. He believes his energy is an advantage to him as he campaigns.
“I don’t think anybody else really has my kind of energy.”