Norfolk mayoral candidates share their views on range of issues

Norfolk mayoral candidates share their views on range of issues

Candidates vying to be the next mayor of Norfolk County stated their positions on a variety of issues before a crowd of several hundred people gathered at the Simcoe Legion on Wednesday night.

Ian Rabbitts, Amy Martin, Kristal Chopp, Dave Bate and Bill Culver responded to several questions including one about staff turnover asked during an all-candidates meeting hosted by the Simcoe & District Chamber of Commerce.

“In a nutshell ‘wow,’” said Culver, a realtor and former councilor for the town of Simcoe. “How can you be focused and move forward when you’re changing your CAD like I change my socks?

“That simply can’t happen.

Culver said it costs huge dollars to replace staff that have left and hire and then train their replacements.

Martin, who represents Ward 6 on the current council, said that the cost of staff turnover to the taxpayer isn’t known.

“At the end of the day (we have to ask) is this appropriate, is this helpful, is it good use of tax dollars, no, (because) it harms services and we hear from the public all the time about poor customer service ,” Martin said.

Martin said there’s a lot of work to do inside the corporation of Norfolk County to ensure efficient use of tax dollars.

Rabbitts, who represents Ward 5 on council, called the staff turnover unacceptable.

“It has been a tough four years and it really takes leadership from the top to make sure our staff are welcomed,” Rabbitts said. “We’ve really moved away from being an employer of choice in our area, moved away from being a learning culture where our staff members feel supported.”

Some staff members have made lateral moves, taken similar positions in other areas and still live in our community.

But Chopp, the county’s current mayor, said residents should check the voting record of all councilors.

Chopp said some terminations were “overwhelming supported by council because it was abundantly clear to everyone that without change, Norfolk County was heading off a cliff.”

The current council has found more errors in accounting than she cares to count and the county’s finance staff knew change was needed, Chopp said.

Bate, a Simcoe businessman, said he knew and has spoken to some of the people who had lost positions and, in some cases, for no apparent reason.

Staff turnover has been a major topic of discussion in Norfolk.

In the spring, councilors were told the county’s turnover rate was 46 per cent. However, that included all employees who moved to new positions within the organization.

The number of employees who left through resignation, retirement or dismissal was 13 per cent, meaning 119 people left the organization.

Some other topics covered on Sept. 21 included teamwork among council members, property taxes, water rates, homelessness, and cannabis odor in residential areas. Recreational facilities and the county’s multi-million-dollar legacy fund were also discussed.

The meeting was sponsored by the Simcoe & District Chamber of Commerce in partnership with the Waterford Chamber of Commerce and the Port Dover Board of Trade. A video of the meeting will be posted at facebook.com/simcoechamber.

Municipal election day is Oct. 24.

The candidates were also given a chance to address the audience.

“If you elect me as mayor, I’m going to be a full-time mayor,” Rabbitts said in his closing remarks. “You can expect that commitment from me.”

Rabbitts said that after serving four years as a councilor he understands what councilors need to be successful. He also vowed to be prepared for meetings and would not make decisions on the fly.

Martin, in her closing remarks, said she hoped residents would understand from her commentary Wednesday that she presented fact-based and forward thinking information.

“The municipal election is an opportunity for the community to ‘revisit’ its roots and choose a competent, community-oriented leader that will not only stabilize our corporation but stabilize our community.”

Culver spoke about a range of issues in his closing remarks including the local economy.

“The focus should be on creating vibrant space for small businesses to thrive,” Culver said. “Norfolk needs to work to create more jobs, to assist in the development of skills training to prepare citizens for the work force must be a priority.”

In her closing remarks Chopp said the elected council is, in effect, a board of directors for a major corporation.

“What I’ve seen over the past four years is a board of directors that, frankly, struggled to understand basic financial principles,” Chopp said. “I need four more years to complete what I started.

“To entrench the culture of accountability I have fostered and keep the good ship Norfolk on course.”

Bate said he was a bit nervous on stage adding that he made some jokes throughout the debate.

“But I don’t think Norfolk is a joke,” Bate said. “I take this very seriously. I’ve lived here all my life.

“I work with youth theater and they put on perfect shows and if you want to see a good show go to Simcoe theatre.”

Bate said he does a lot of work with the Lion’s Club and built his business from the ground up. He said he watches his money very carefully

“I know how to budget and how money works,” Bate said.

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