Shchepanik brings experience

·3 min read

Neebing, Ont. — Having been through many elections in the past, Gary Shchepanik is the battle-tested councillor candidate for Blake Township in the Municipality of Neebing.

The former Neebing Ward councillor for the City of Thunder Bay — he served on Thunder Bay council from 2000-2003 — is up against newcomers Ron Woit and Katherine Hill for the Blake job which is being vacated by mayoral candidate Mark Thibert.

Shchepanik, who worked for Ontario Power Generation for almost four decades, was in the political game when terms were for only three years, not the current four-year duration and feels that’s a better timeframe.

“That was the best thing they ever did was move to four years because you can’t learn everything in three years,” said Shchepanik, who was a Power Workers’ Union representative for 20 years. “Being a rookie councillor, it took two years to get your feet wet.

“The first thing I would bring to council in (the Municipality of Neebing) is take a look at what’s going on and figure it out from there.

“I’m not making any promises. The books are the books. The people are the people. It looks like we’ve got a good administration and we’ll just go from there. (For Blake), maintain what we have and live within our means.”

Shchepanik knows his rivals well. His cousin is Woit’s partner, he went to high school with the former Woit Pharmacy owner and lives four camps away from his opponent on Sturgeon Bay.

Hill’s father is a former Municipality of Neebing councillor and Shchepanik has had conversations with him, although he wasn’t pitching platforms with the elder Hill due to his daughter Katherine entering the race.

“I really don’t care who’s running against me and when they (got into the race),” said Shchepanik, who sandwiched his winning 2000 bid with a pair of losses to Linda Rydholm for the Neebing Ward seat for the City of Thunder Bay in 1997 and 2003.

“You bring your cards to the table. I’ve been through 20 elections in my days and I haven’t won all of them by any means. We’ll see what the people want and what they believe in.

“I know most of the people out (in Neebing) because I’ve been out here for so long. Everybody has their own ideas, so be it. I give credit to every person that puts their name forward because there’s a lot of people that won’t.”

Shchepanik also knows he would be only one vote on a seven-member council. Getting other policy makers at the table on board is the key to passing motions.

“You can’t get anything done, same as (the City of Thunder Bay) council, unless you have a majority vote,” Shchepanik. “You can say you’re going to do everything in the world for (Blake Township), but if you can’t team build with everybody else to get your votes, you have nothing. You’re just a loudmouth sitting in the back corner.”

In Neebing’s mayoral race, Thibert is being challenged by former mayor Ziggy Polkowski to replace the outgoing Erwin Butikofer.

The at-large councillor battle sees incumbent Gordon Cuthbertson against newcomer Jill Cadieux, while Obie Egbuchulam is up against incumbent Brian Wright for the Crooks job.

Curtis Coulson (Pardee), Gary Gardner (Pearson) and Brian Kurikka (Scoble) ran unopposed and had their councillor positions acclaimed.

Municipal elections are set for Oct. 24 across the province.

John Nagy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal