Shelburne Deputy Mayor, Steve Anderson is a crusader for inclusivity of all people in his com-munity and fervently believes that one should be judged on their aims and accomplishments.He also serves as the County Councillor of Dufferin and is the first born Canadian in a fam-ily of six siblings, with Jamaican parents.Steve grew up in Jane Finch, in Toronto, attended the University of Windsor for his Hon-ours Baccalaureate in criminology, started Law School at the University of Detroit Mercy and finished his degree at the University of Ottawa. He was subsequently hired by the Toronto Transit Commission to work in their legal department as a litigator. Considering his present position as a vocal advocate for civil rights and the inclusion of all people and races in todays society, it begs the question why choose litigation law rather than civil rights of some similar field?Steve’s answer was simple. He did not start out imagining himself leading some great advocacy charge. Rather, he knew he wanted to make a dif-ference in the world and saw the law as a poten-tial pathway to achieving it. Steve said the TTC gave him the chance to build his own platform. Once he found himself working for such an iconic institution, people saw him as a possible resource.He was a lawyer when working for the TTC and someone who could go into schools to speak with youth. This resulted in many opened many doors for Steve. He was asked to speak to schools and many organizations about his experiences. This, in turn, reverberated with his bosses and their bosses and they supported it wholeheartedly. In part, because of its benefit to the youth of the community and in part, because it reflected positively on them. Steve and a friend of his, Ian, worked together in Steve’s old neighbourhood of Jane Finch, to help youth there. They assisted in achievement awards for academics, community service and other accomplishments. They have done this for over ten years and still continue today, but with COVID-19 precautions.From Steve’s work in Toronto he learned a lot about the potential to impact change through politics and a seed was planted. The seed sprouted when he had just moved to Shelburne with his family and the munici-pal elections were underway. He thought about entering the race, but realized that he knew noth-ing about the issues of his new community, so he waited. But while he waited, he began to follow the local political scene and learned about issues affecting ShelburneHe did not yet know the community, but he knew the issues. It was then that the Town asked for members to become a part of the Transit Task Force. It was a perfect fit for a TTC veteran. The task force was composed of CAO John Telfer, Ron Monroe and Steve. The plan was to run a transit system in town for two years and then have Go Transit take it over. Unfortunately, the plan never came to fruition, but it made Go Transit aware of the town and its desire for tran-sit.Several years later, Steve was part of bringing Grey County transit buses to Shelburne.It was shortly after the task force dissolved, that Councillor Tom Egan suddenly passed, creating a vacancy on Town Council. Steve decided that he should throw his hat in the ring and try to become a part of the commu-nity’s political machine. He faced an uphill battle. Tom Egan had been a much loved member of the community for many years and he left very big shoes to fill, no matter who took over, let alone a new resident, not well known in the community. After going through the selection process, Steve won the appointment and the rest is his-tory, but, not history without effort. Realizing how big of an achievement he had just accomplished, Steve decided that he had to hit the ground running if he was to have any chance of wining the hearts and minds of Shel-burne’s residents and continue in his political endeavours.His first goal was to honour Tom Egan and he did so by getting Council to create the Tom Egan Community Service Award.When Steve was going through the selection process and even before that, on the Transit Task Force, the question came up as to what he thought could be done to make the old and new resident communities more inclusive of each other.The slogan, “Shelburne Stronger Together” originated from this thought. This is what char-acterizes Steve’s community involvement, bring-ing the community together. He was the first councillor in Shelburne, to hold a “meet and greet “ at the Town Library, where constituents could come and meet him, hear his views and present their questions and opinions.Following his first 10 months, Steve let the community know who he was and what to expect. Then came the 2018 municipal elections. As he tells it, Steve never wanted to be Deputy Mayor. He had formed a close friendship with Geoff Dunlop, the Deputy Mayor preceding him and he wanted to see Geoff remain in that posi-tion. I would have been happy just to win a full term on council, he said. But life had other plans and Geoff decided to bow out of politics, leaving Steve feeling like he should run for the position after all. He revealed that his reason for doing so, almost reluctantly, is because if he did not, he felt the community “was going to go off in a direction that he did not think it should be going.”Steve knew he would have to be exceptional to win the seat, but he believed in his vision for the direction of the community and so he took up the challenge.Following his election to the position of Dep-uty Mayor, his political life has become almost as demanding as his career as an attorney.Partially, the reason for this is because of his dedication to welcoming and supporting all the different cultures and populace diversities of Shelburne, while working to help solve the many municipal government problems in the Town. When looking back on his campaign to become Deputy Mayor, one of the things Steve feels most strongly helped him was going door to door with Councillor Walter Benotto. Walter is the longest serving member of council and is very well known in the town, yet together they complimented each other in going door to door. In the newer subdivisions, frequently Steve was recognized and introduced Walter, while in the established parts of town, it was the other way around, but together, they made a solid impres-sion of cooperation and a shared commitment to a Shelburne both embracing the new and holding onto the establishment.When asked if he would consider running for Mayor, Steve was adamant, he will not. He thinks Wade Mills is a good Mayor and a good working partner. They share a similar vision of the Town and Steve is happy being the Deputy Mayor. Serving as Mayor is demanding rand requires a considerable amount of time, which Steve feels, for him, would be better spent continuing his current efforts. One of those efforts was epitomized for Steve in the Black Lives Matter March that was held in Shelburne. He was overwhelmed by the turnout and by the diversity of people who participated. “Black, white, you name it,” said Steve. It was then that the realization came that if he and the Mayor and the Town ever needed a man-date, it was there. The people overwhelmingly were in support of the fundamental right for all people to be included in society as equals. It was a clear indi-cation that it was time to take action and that action became the Anti Racism and Discrimina-tion Taskforce, established by Shelburne Town Council.The task force was established to confront social issues and seek to correct them. One point that was brought up by Steve in the context of having difficult conversations about racism, was that having these conversations does not mean pointing fingers at people. Pointing fin-gers defeats the purpose of discussion. What is needed is collaboration and a willing-ness to listen and work towards rectifying issues, said Steve.Council has set aside $20,000 in its 2021 Bud-get to follow the task force recommendations and advocated for money in future budgets to con-tinue the work and to support new initiatives that may come from this.With the next election only two years away, Steve has put thought into what he wants to do and what he has been able to accomplish. He told the Citizen he isn’t interested in pro-vincial or federal politics, nor the Mayor position but is content being Deputy Mayor and staying in municipal politics, where he can get things accomplished. Steve likes to be able to point to the promises he made and kept, he is proud of his personal brand and what he stands for. He has not done all that he wants to do in Shelburne, he may never, but he wants to try. Steve believes that a man is judged by his accomplishments, not just by his promises and in municipal politics he can live by his own stan-dard and not the will of the party. He can listen to the people and he can try to get them what they want and so for the foreseeable future he is happy being on Town Council.
Peter Richardson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Orangeville Citizen