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Cornfield wants his old job back

Charlie Cornfield - Alistair Taylor/The Mirror
Charlie Cornfield
— image credit: Alistair Taylor/The Mirror

A familiar face is returning to municipal politics in Campbell River.

Former mayor and city councillor Charlie Cornfield announced Wednesday he is running for mayor.

“It was the worst kept secret in town,” Cornfield said about his much-rumoured announcement.

Cornfield served one term as Mayor of Campbell River from 2009-2011 and nine years prior to that as a city councillor.

“I am concerned about the future of our city,” Cornfield said. “That’s the big one.

“We’ve got lots of potential. We need to responsibly manage growth.”

Cornfield said he is proud of his record and the councils he was on.

“We didn’t borrow a nickel and we paid down our debt,” Cornfield said.

But Cornfield is concerned about a lack of action taken over the last three years. We’re seeing the benefit of work done by previous councils, like on what he calls the “major projects” – the John Hart Dam upgrade and the new Campbell River hospital.

“It took a lot of work over a long period of time to bring the major projects online,” Cornfield said, “benefits (from which) we are receiving now.”

This past council has not kept that momentum going; not focusing enough on the future.

“I haven’t seen them work on anything for five-to-seven years down the road,” Cornfield said.

Campbell River has to find new sources of annual revenue, not more taxation to move the city forward, he said. Our ability to accomplish that is affected by the current strife on council.

“To do that, you have got to have a council that is really cohesive,” he said. “You can have your differences but it is important that everybody is on the same page.”

The strife that has marked the current council affects the city’s ability to compete outside the community as well.

“They want to know that all of council is onside, that the community is onside,” he said.

The mayor and councillors are there to represent all of the community. Cornfield is a firm believer that the mayor and council is elected to follow the will of the people. The challenge for council is to know what the community wants and needs and where it is going.  One of the jobs of mayor is to build a team of council and city staff that is directed by the citizens through meaningful public involvement and participation.

“It is about working together (knowing) how to disagree respectfully and move forward,” Cornfield said. “I have no hidden agendas, no personal pet projects. It is about developing a strategic plan that all can support and working together for the benefit of the community as a whole.”

The mayor’s role is an important one, Cornfield said. The public sees the mayor attending functions, dealing with the public, speaking on behalf of the city and council, dealing with the media, chairing council meetings and fielding concerns and complaints.

The mayor also has to work with council and city staff to ensure they function as a team and know what is expected of each other. The mayor also has to provide clear strategic direction to staff so that they know what council and the public expect.

The other, less visible aspect of the mayor’s job is as an ambassador, usually away from the city dealing with federal and provincial governments, industry and business. The mayor promotes the city. Even when he is working on various boards and committees, his presence and actions give the city a profile. Cornfield also said that opinions are formed about the city via the actions of the mayor in his ambassadorial role.

Cornfield said he knows what is required from the mayor and knows how to accomplish it. His campaign is based on a “triple bottom line” - environmental, economic and social.

Cornfield is ready for the challenge.

“I have had three years off,” Cornfield said.

That three years gave him a chance to reconnect with people, he said, and provided the opportunity to reflect on his previous time as mayor.

He said he has regrets and can see how he could do things differently but he is also proud of his record. He has been encouraged by the number of people who have urged him to step into the ring.

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