Ward 6-All about bringing ‘light’ and ‘sanity’ back

Oct. 14, 2009 – Chelsea, Quebec’s Ward 6 is an amalgam of what candidate Michael Geisterfer calls the three distinct communities of Kingsmere, Hollow Glen and Mine Road that can sometimes feel to be on the periphery of Chelsea life. Candidate Edmond Hetu’s children, for instance, have to go to school in Aylmer rather than to Grand Boise.

It could be this idea of separate communities that has the three candidates seeking outgoing councillor Jim Connolly’s seat focused on communication. While the three bring different perspectives on Chelsea’s development, including residents in council’s decisions is a common refrain.

Michael Geisterfer

Michael Geisterfer, 50, is a former war correspondent in Central America for the Southam newspaper chain who has also freelanced for the Globe and Mail, The National Post, Reader’s Digest and the CBC. He is currently a senior communications advisor with the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs.

The married father of four has never run for office but he sat on the Chelsea Foundation’s board until deciding to run for council.

“There are a number of things that came out during (the Meredith Centre) campaign that motivated me to become more involved on council,” said Geisterfer, who’s concerned about the polarization Chelsea’s two referenda  caused. He considers it his civic duty to get involved and actively try to bring the two segments that formed over the past two years together.

Geisterfer calls the debate over Chelsea’s development a “false dichotomy”, saying council’s role will be to “flesh out the hidden dynamics” of development, which he considers inevitable. Calling Chelsea a “rural community of communities”, he said he understands people in the municipality’s southern end being concerned about losing their rural character but doesn’t think Chelsea as a whole is at risk at all.

Geisterfer describes Ward 6 as “basically three distinct neighbourhoods at risk of feeling like they’re on the sidelines of life in Chelsea.” To make Hollow Glen, Mine Road and Kingsmere feel as though they’re part of a larger whole, he said it’s important to listen to each community’s needs and not to dictate decisions.

Edmond Hetu

Almost a year ago, outgoing councillor Jim Connolly suggested that Edmond Hetu consider taking over his seat. Hetu, a married father of four (his children range from four to 27), didn’t think he had time, “but like everything else you’ve just got to make time if you think it’s important.”

Hetu, 53, is an IT consultant, an independent contractor who works primarily with the government. He moved to Chelsea in 1997 and has been a volunteer firefighter for six years.

Like most candidates, Hetu sees his municipality as polarized and the council’s effectiveness compromised as a result. He would like to “bring council back to a sane level of discussion,” and see a body that can both work well together and listen to its residents.

“I’m a newbie,” he admits. “I’m open to all possibilities and I’m most interested in what the people really want. If people in my ward have an opinion, what I want is to collect opinion and represent it.”

The Meredith Centre, though, is a “done deal” and Hetu has no interest in reopening the discussion.

With only two councillors running for reelection and issues such as Chelsea Creek and the Meredith Centre “simmering in the background”, Hetu is wary of the past year’s referenda activism spilling into an activist council, which he said “won’t be particularly effective.”

“I tend to be conciliatory and non-confrontational. I don’t have a history of being belligerent,” he said. “I’d like to bring that to council. I like to hear people’s opinion. I like to hear alternative points of view.”

Richard Herron

Richard Herron, the retired former president of Old Chelsea Computing, is putting consultation with his constituents and the interests of retirees at the forefront of his agenda.

Herron, who has lived in Chelsea for more than 20 years, said there are too many issues about which residents are poorly informed. “My goal is to get some light into city hall,” he said.

Herron would make a network of constituents by going door-to-door to acquire email addresses and send Ward 6 constituents a newsletter brief, allowing him to secure input on each issue council faces. The communication would work two ways: “I intend to represent constituents but also to represent city hall to constituents.”

On Chelsea’s development, Herron said he would “like to maintain the status quo within reason.” While he doesn’t want rampant development that would “change my little country village into a ghetto”, he also stresses that he’s “not a fanatic tree-hugger” and he recognizes there will be changes.

Herron admits to having preconceived notions about Chelsea’s major issues but he said he’s willing to put those aside.

“Others’ ideas are just as reasonable as mine, they’re just different,” he said. “To get consensus, everybody wins and everybody loses a little bit too, and you have to keep that in mind.”