Former town clerk/manager, town councillor confirms he wants town's top elected post
© Photo by Terry Roberts/The Compass
Wayne Smith is the newly elected mayor of Spaniard's Bay.
Barring any late developments, it's appearing as though the race for mayor in the Town of Spaniard's Bay may be an uncontested one.
With a little over a week to go before nomination day on Sept. 3, incumbent Coun. Wayne Smith is the only citizen to publicly announce his intention to seek the mayor's chair and take over from longtime leader John Drover, who is retiring from politics after a long and distinguished career.
“I think I’ve got the experience. I’ve certainly got the time now that I’m retired,” Smith, who turned 65 this past winter, told The Compass this week.
Smith, a well-spoken man who's not afraid to share his ideas and opinions, is concluding his first four-year term on council. But he's no stranger to municipal affairs. He served as town clerk/manager for the town for 24 years before taking an early retirement in 2001 following a health scare.
He's indicated for some time that he would like to serve as mayor, and with not even a whisper of a challenger for the town's top elected post, he may get his wish when elections take place on Sept. 24.
Like many larger towns, Spaniard's Bay has a separate ballot for mayor.
"There are many people in this town capable of running a strong campaign and they have until Sept. 3 to make up their minds," Smith commented when asked about the possibility of an uncontested race.
There was plenty of talk that Tony Menchions was eyeing the job, but the likable and tireless deputy mayor recently confirmed he is too busy, and will likely seek re-election as a councillor.
Smith had nothing but praise for Menchions, noting, "No doubt he’d be a hard man to knock off."
Meanwhile, Smith is already talking like a statesman with a plan to lead.
In an interview, Smith once again articulated his belief that the town's of Spaniard's Bay, Upper Island Cove and Harbour Grace should amalgamate into one municipality, with a large enough tax base to hire professionals such as building inspectors and firefighters.
He freely acknowledges that while his vision has received support around the council table in Spaniard's Bay, his colleagues in neighbouring towns are not so welcoming.
He's also critical of the provincial government's cost-sharing formula for capital works funding, saying the 90/10 split — with the province picking up the lion's share — with towns like Spaniard's Bay is not working. He believes the province should return to a more realistic formula, such as the 60/40 split that was common about a decade ago.
Over the past four years, he said, applications for funding have repeatedly been denied. He believes it's because the province is carrying too large of a burden, and not able to spread available funding around.
“Towns would have to come up with more, but I’m sure if towns need more money, they will come up with it," he said.
“We are not poor. We have some money in the bank and we can afford our share."
Going it alone
Smith described the roads in Spaniard's Bay and elsewhere as "deplorable," and said maintenance efforts have fallen behind because of the cost-sharing formula and the province's austerity measures.
The town is using revenues from the federal gas tax to do some upgrading, and he said council has even decided to purchase a fire truck on its own if the province does not come onside.
“We’ll look at going on our own,” he said, noting that two of the three emergency vehicles in use by the fire department are “obsolete.”
As for the cramped and outdated confines of the town hall, Smith believes the provincial government can address this shortcoming just in time for the town's 50th anniversary of incorporation in 2015. All it has to do is transfer ownership of the school board building in the town, he said.
With the four English school boards in the province set to consolidate into one provincewide board beginning this school year, the regional office in Spaniard's Bay is set to close.
Smith said it would be an ideal building for the town.
“It would make a fine anniversary gift,” Smith said.
He's also bullish on the the proposed Veterans Memorial Business Park, a project that has raised hopes in the region, but has also drawn its share of skeptics.
“That’s to the point now where it’s either make-or-break. We’re pretty confident it will go forward,” he said. “I’d like to be on council to see it through.”
Meanwhile, it's likely that all incumbent members of council, excluding Mayor Drover, will be seeking re-election.
As for prospective challengers, a town official said there's not a great deal of interest, and posters are being circulated in order to attract candidates.