Ute Schmid-Jones vying to become Midland’s next mayor

·4 min read

A taste of urban politics has one resident wanting to bring big city ideas to running the small town of Midland.

Ute Schmid-Jones has decided to run for the position of mayor of Midland in the upcoming 2022 municipal election to be held on October 24. (Incumbent mayor Stewart Strathearn, and councillors Bill Gordon and Jonathan Main have also announced intentions to fill the mayor's role next term).

Schmid-Jones, 55, graduated from Midland Secondary School and furthered her education with a Bachelor of Applied Arts degree in radio and television from the recently renamed Ryerson Polytechnic University. With a decade as a fitness instructor at the YMCA, her knowledge of the body-mind connection was solidified.

She served on several committees in Midland, such as the library board and seniors council. During her time on the accessibility committee and heritage committee in 2015, she departed for loftier aspirations.

“I’ve run federally in the Green party; that was in Hamilton where I ran as a parachute candidate in 2015 – that’s why I left those two committees early,” said Schmid-Jones.

“I also ran for the mayor of Hamilton (in 2018). There were 16 candidates running (and) I was one of the top three recommended to be the mayor of Hamilton based on those survey responses from the unions.”

Topics in the survey included her values on development and public transit. She finished 12th of 15 mayoral candidates with 463 votes.

Another suggestion, based on the city of Hamilton’s structure, is to allow councillors to take turns in the floating role of deputy mayor; meanwhile that position would be allotted to a representative of Indigenous, Métis, or environmental background.From those times as a candidate, Schmid-Jones brought back other grand suggestions to run the municipality of Midland. One idea she would like to introduce is for the OPP to bring a peace officer role to the community similar to what Edmonton has staffed.

“That would be a really strong way to ensure… that we honour truth and reconciliation. I say, ‘I’m an immigrant, I am part of the colonization process in this country, and I’m on a learning curve on how, through truth and reconciliation, I can do better’. I think this is part of understanding that this step could help us do better.”

Climate change is her largest campaign platform as an environmentalist.

“I think it’s really important, in our municipalities in Simcoe County, that we lead in a climate-aware direction toward climate resilience. That’s not just a mechanical and environmental issue at this time; we know that as human beings living in this particular time-space, we have to deal with a lot of information and we have to learn how to compartmentalize trauma – which is part of climate resilience – while not losing our compassion.”

Schmid-Jones looked at the stagnant growth of Midland’s 17,817 population, up 5.7 per cent from 2016, as one of the town’s greatest challenges facing the next term of council.

“We cannot stay small, and, of course, we have to do it in a sustainable way,” she said. “A lot of people think the answer is in building more and more subdivisions, but I think filling in the spaces that are already sitting there waiting for homes is just something we need to consider.

“It could be a secondary suite in your home or a tiny house in your backyard, or it could be an alleyway home. If you think of Easy Street, there’s lots of space to do accessed housing on that street as well."

Difficulty in finding both sustainable housing and affordable housing is something Schmid-Jones is aware of, as she found herself living in a motel room upon returning to Midland in 2019.

“It’s very difficult to even find a room rental because of our bylaws regarding home sharing in Midland, and we need to open those residential bylaws up and start being more flexible in what can be considered appropriate housing in our community.

“I look at my motel room as appropriate housing; the only thing I’m missing is a kitchenette. We could be building those kinds of bachelorette suites for aging adults and adults who don’t have a partner; that’s enough space for a single adult to live in.”

Midland Bay Landing is another concern for Schmid-Jones, who saw the environmental impact and potential for a second retail zone adjacent to the downtown merchants as requiring further investigation.

“The most important thing with developers is to negotiate for community assets.”

As for her election campaign, public engagement is a crucial element she felt has been underserved for the past few years.

“I think it’s important to be as authentic about who I am, and then letting people make that decision for themselves.”

Politics are at the heart of Schmid-Jones’ lifestyle, and her perseverance is readily shown on her sleeve.

“I haven’t made it across the finish line yet, but there’s always tomorrow.”

Information on the Midland municipal election can be found on the Town of Midland website.

Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, MidlandToday.ca

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