THUNDER BAY, ONT. — If you look at the mayoral candidates list for the Municipality of Oliver Paipoonge, you’ll see that there’s a prominent name missing — current Mayor Lucy Kloosterhuis.
There’s still time (the nomination closing date is Aug. 19) for the veteran mayor to throw her beret into the ring, but as of yet, she remains off the list.
A decision to run will come at the end of the month, one way or another, although she seems to be leaning to keeping the job she’s had since 2003.
“Possibly. I’m still contemplating it,” said Kloosterhuis. “I’m kind of giving myself the deadline of the end of July to make up my mind one way or another, so right now I’m just thinking about it.
“Yeah, I am thinking that I would love to continue being on council, but we also have to be a little smart, a little bit like what (longtime City of Thunder Bay at-large councillor Rebecca Johnson) said, ‘When you’ve been in it long enough, sometimes it’s time to move sideways and let younger people in.’ That’s what’s going through my mind right now.
“Certainly not that I want to leave. I enjoy the challenges. I enjoy when it’s successful. I love working with the administration and really enjoy working with the volunteers because if it wasn’t for volunteers, not much happens in any of our rural communities.”
Kloosterhuis has been in municipal politics for 31 years starting as a councillor in 1991, seeing Oliver and Paipoonge amalgamate in 1998 and taking the top job for the past 19 years.
Should she run, Kloosterhuis would be up against current Oliver Paipoonge councillors Rick Potter and Brandon Postuma.
Potter was a councillor for Oliver before amalgamation and Postuma is finishing up his first term.
Kloosterhuis said the position can be daunting at times.
“When I first began as councillor and eventually as mayor, the job has changed so much,” said Kloosterhuis, who will be attending the Association of Municipalities of Ontario conference in Ottawa next month.
“It was an interesting and challenging position, but over the years — especially the last 15 years — so much has been brought down by the province and federal governments to the municipalities, that the workload is much more heavier than it used to be.
“It’s a full-time/part-time job. It’s part-time, but you’re on the job 24/7 and every day of the week, you can get called at midnight, you can get called at noon hour. It’s with you all the time, so the commitment is much more now than it was 30 years ago.”
Kloosterhuis, who is also the chair for the District of Thunder Bay Social Services Administration Board and would lose that title should she not run for re-election, believes the municipality is on the right path.
“I think we’re on a very good track right now where our building permits have continued to increase every year, our population is gradually increasing, our commercial/industrial is increasing as well. I think if we continue on a steady basis that way, it’s to the betterment of all the residents.
“The more buisinesses that come into the municipality, the easier it is on the pocketbook of the residents because they help share the taxes.
“We’ve worked every year over all of these years to get more and more hard-surface roads. We don’t have too many gravel roads anymore . . . a certain amount of money is spent every year on new hard surfacing, a certain amount on rehabilitating and a certain amount on new, like on redoing a road that’s already been hard surfaced, which seems to be working quite well.”
And there’s still work to be done with Kloosterhuis pointing to the preserving of the Slate River Valley and keeping 18-wheelers from barrelling through Kakabeka Falls.
“Slate River Valley has one of the prime agricultural areas in the whole of Northwestern Ontario. We’re protective of that area,” said Kloosterhuis. “We’ve stopped any residential development in that area to protect the property, so we can continue to have agricultural products coming out of there.
“Kakabeka is our tourism area. We’re working to protect the village . . . by trying to not have the truck diversion go through because that will basically destroy the village because of the increase in truck traffic, so we’re working hard to protect them from that.
“That’s a park which the province takes care of — we don’t — but it brings the tourists in.”
It’s something the Stanley resident wants to see continue. With or without her in the mayor’s chair.
John Nagy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal