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GUEST COLUMN: A year in new shoes

Cindy Scholten I’ve been on Sarnia council for 14 months and still find it odd being referred to as a politician.
City Hall
Sarnia City Hall

Cindy Scholten

I’ve been on Sarnia council for 14 months and still find it odd being referred to as a politician.

I’ve experienced some very uncomfortable decision-making and felt every human emotion possible: joy, anxiety, regret, anger and even despair. Although it’s not always good, I can say with 100% confidence I truly enjoy the role.

My first meeting dealt with the $125-million municipal budget. I was told: “Don’t worry, you’re new. It’s not really your budget.”

Cindy Scholten
Cindy Scholten

I didn’t swallow that pill, and pored over it for weeks. If you read long enough you find expenses that are either out ‘of’ control or out of ‘our’ control. Expenses like legal, WSIB, lawsuits, waste and overtime wages.

We have claims from faulty sidewalks we can’t afford to fix. We hire summer students to walk them and paint the danger areas. We can’t afford bike lanes or road repairs. Meanwhile, we didn’t have a revenue-generating marketing strategy.

Thankfully, we passed motions to create one and take stock of our land and structural assets. With new revenue streams we can attempt to ease budget pressures and elevate the city’s brand exposure (which spins off to attracting investors and newcomers).

I faced resistance early on. Motions were entertained, and some were not. It’s not about motions, it’s about making the effort to voice what you (and your community) feel is right. I also mentioned despair.

One morning after a strategic planning session I left feeling very discouraged. I joined council to contribute to this community, to inspire growth and change, but how could I do that while ‘others’ at the table resisted change, arms folded, unwilling to participate? I have since forged ahead and feel a change on council, for the better.

Along with the challenges come positives. I’m often contacted by school children full of awesome ideas. They just need to be heard and welcomed. I’m working on something that will really give them new opportunities to get involved.

Being a councillor means being a policy-maker. If you’re tuned into businesses you can push for policies that support their needs. Last year, I tried to make changes in the procurement policy that would give businesses new opportunities to bid on projects. I was shot down because (apparently) I came in too late. I will be bringing those ideas back and calling on the business community for input.

I’ve paid close attention to how council operates and I’m ready for Year Two. I recently heard these quotes from London Council: “There’s room for improvement, we’re constantly changing,” and, “Let’s see if this is the year to be bold.”

I read once that doors will be opened to those bold enough to knock. Let’s make this the year to be bold!

Contact me via email: [email protected], Twitter: CindyScholten99, LinkedIn: Cindy Scholten Marketer, Facebook: Cindy Scholten Sarnia City Councillor, or call 226-932-0966.

Cindy Scholten is a Sarnia councillor with a background in marketing and communications.

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