Current mayor Terry Barnes, past mayor Don Coombs, and current councillor Gordon Stone are all trying their hand at a chance at take the mayor’s seat in Harbour Grace for the next four years, and all three have strong visions for the future of the community.
Mayor Barnes, who is soon finishing his first term as mayor, holds great pride in what he and the current council have done for the town in the last four years. He told The Compass that were he to find himself back in the position for another four, he would build on what’s been accomplished thus far, and further improve on the things that the current council has worked hard to achieve.
Barnes holds a strong focus on tourism, noting that the industry has been booming in Newfoundland and Labrador in recent years, and that he felt as though Harbour Grace had a lot of room to improve in that area.
“We have an air field up there that’s not being used, for example,” Barnes said. “The regatta should be bigger than what it is, and what about Lady Lake? Why don’t we open that up, and let people build homes and things there? Not only would it add a beautiful area to the town, it would bring in a lot of money for us as well. Tourism is a big thing on my mind, because I can see where we as a town can improve, and the benefits it would have for us.”
Barnes highlighted the construction of the Danny Cleary Harbour Grace Community Centre, the Grace Centre, and the newly re-announced roadwork planned for Harvey Street as some of the major things council has brought to the town during this term. He said that although some of these things were in the works before he sat as mayor, the ball was moving slowly.
“We got things going, we got things moving,” Barnes explained. “Some of these things, like Harvey Street, that was promised to us years and years ago, before this current council, but it’s finally getting done. We put in the work, and we brought a lot of great things to this community.”
Barnes is looking to continue this pattern, with high hopes for the future. He said his main focus is continued improvement with infrastructure, as well as the tourism industry, and to ensure the Harbour Grace of the future is one worth living in.
“This is my home – I have children and grandchildren here. My family is here. I want them, along with everyone else who is fortunate enough to live here, to have a good, strong community they can grow up and live in for many years to come,” said Barnes.
Don Coombs spent 20 years as mayor of Harbour Grace and, following a close race with Barnes four years ago, is looking to reclaim the seat again in 2017.
Coombs is approaching the race this year with a business-oriented mindset, hoping to ensure the town’s financial stability while focusing on building a cooperative and friendly council.
Coombs, during an interview with The Compass, noted a particular interest in making sure the town’s finances stay where they need to be, and improving the community from there.
“It’s great to promise all these things, and say you’re going to do this or that for the town, but how can you do that if the money isn’t there? If the finances aren’t readily available to do those sorts of things, it’ll never go beyond the planning stages,” said Coombs. “Being a mayor, or any member of council for that matter, is a very important position for a town. It’s our job to improve the town, and that all starts at the finances. That’s step one for improvement – making sure we can provide residents with the things they need.”
Coombs said he feels confident in his ability to achieve his goals, noting his past experience on council. He also said that in order for council to succeed, he wants to see council members work as a team, rather than individually, at the expense of dividing council.
“At the end of the day, council members are not employees of the town, they’re policy makers and representatives of the community,” Coombs explained. “So because of that, it’s very, very important that everyone works together as a team. Communication is key, not only amongst ourselves, but with the residents.”
Coombs said that his vision for the future of Harbour Grace includes straightened financials, as well as residents who have the things they need, noting in particular Riverhead’s issues with water, and the state of Harvey Street.
“I’d like to see things get done, at the end of the day,” said Coombs. “Places like Harvey Street and Kitchen’s Hill, they all need work. I want to see water access in parts of town that don’t have it. Lastly, I’d like to see more consistency in our polices. What happens for Don Coombs should happen for Joe Blow down the street as well. No one gets any special privileges – what happens for one person, happens for the community, because that’s what makes a community.”
Gordon Stone currently holds a seat as a councillor for the Town of Harbour Grace. However, his political history dates back to the days of Harbour Grace South acting as its own municipality, pre-amalgamation, where he spent two terms - one as a councillor, and one as mayor.
After four years on council, Stone looks forward to the possibility of moving into the mayor’s chair this year.
“It’s been a long history with politics for me,” Stone said, “but it’s been a very enjoyable one. I’m looking forward to this next chapter. I like to try everything, and I enjoy life a lot – there’s no adventure I’d turn down, and politics is certainly an adventure.”
Stone told The Compass that there are three angles he has his sights set on for the Town of Harbour Grace. Those include a set number of public consultations to be held in the town hall every year, a mayor’s group with local business leaders in the community, and constant communication between council and residents.
“I want it to be a very transparent, and involved, public consultation process this time around,” Stone said.
Stone also made note of his hopes for a five-year plan for council, which would identify the town’s priorities, as laid out with input from residents.
“We’d use that to identify the funds needed to do it, and a timeline for when we expect things to get done,” said Stone. “I have a particular focus on infrastructure, particularly water and sewer for the probably 30 per cent of the town that’s been without it for many years. That’s the starting point, at least, and I look forward to moving on from there.”
Stone went on to explain his desire to have citizens of Harbour Grace recognize the assets available in the community, and to see residents work together to better the town as a group. He said his vision of Harbour Grace has members of the community acting as a team, rather than as individuals, and that he wants to see Harbour Grace become a vibrant economic centre.
“I’d like to see business really grow here in Harbour Grace. (Such as) some small businesses opening up, like coffee shops and things like that, to really give the town a sense of character,” said Stone. “I want to see people come into our beautiful community, so they can learn and talk about the town and its story.”