After two terms as Deputy Mayor in Tillsonburg, and an earlier three-year term as Councillor, Mark Renaud is ready for a change.
He has his eyes on a new seat in the 2014 Municipal Elections and he was one of the first to file his application in the spring. When Tillsonburg votes on October 27, Renaud's name will be on the ballot for the position of Mayor.
"I do believe very firmly – as an optimist – that Tillsonburg's best days are ahead," said Renaud. "I believe we need, as a council, and if I am elected Mayor, to be moving in a very forward thinking direction. I think we have some key issues that need to be addressed."
He noted one of those issues is public transportation.
"We have changing demographics. We have an aging population and there are people right now who are choosing to leave Tillsonburg because of transportation issues, and I believe that's something the next council will need to address. I think transportation within Tillsonburg is an issue, and I think our connection to Woodstock needs to resolved in the short term."
There are also issues regarding the C-1 commercial zone downtown, he said.
"Over the last number of years we've made a lot of progress in filling a lot of the vacant stores. But I'd say in the last 18-24 months we have a lot more vacancies on our main street. That concerns me. I think the town has to rekindle our relationship with the BIA, and do a much better job of retail recruitment for the core."
Tillsonburg Hydro Inc. has been addressed at council in recent months, and will continue to be a key asset, he said.
"I believe Tillsonburg Hydro is a very key asset of the town. It's very profitable and I think it can be more profitable and more of a contributor to the town's financial position. I feel very strongly that we should not be divesting ourselves of the hydro company at this time. It's proven to be a key asset."
As an experienced entrepreneur, he believes the town should be doing a better job marketing its strengths.
"We are not on the 401 corridor, but we do have other key assets. We still have railway, north-south in particular, which is key for our business and industry. We should be working with our partners, federal in particular, to look to see what we can continue to do to save the east-west rail line from St. Thomas to Norfolk County. That's an unresolved issue I'd like to see resolved."
The Tillsonburg Regional Airport and its value to Tillsonburg is another item being discussed, he said.
"I believe it is a huge, strong, competitive advantage for us. Most other municipalities do not own such an asset – an airport – like we do. To me, that's a competitive advantage that we should be marketing."
In the coming months, as other airports come under threat of closure, he said there will be more and more aircraft without 'homes.' Other airports in the area are gearing toward larger operations, he said, and he believes there is a huge opportunity for the Tillsonburg Regional Airport to continue growing and attracting more planes, more hangars, and more business.
"Fuel sales are at a record high, the number of aircraft movements in a historical sense have never been higher, and the number of hangars that have been constructed at the airport has been unparalleled. It's growing... it's growing huge.
"I think that is testament to its success and I think we need to invest in it in the future."
Heading into the home stretch of the election campaign, Renaud said he will be able to talk about more specifics on key issues that need to be addressed. In essence, his plan if elected Mayor.
One of those, he said, is boundary adjustments.
"I believe we need to work with our neighbours, particularly with Norfolk, and with Elgin. We need to look at how, in the short term, we will be able to address a potential shortage of industrial developed land at the south end of Tillsonburg. I believe firmly that the Norfolk Mall property, and that edge of town, should be part of the Town of Tillsonburg and Oxford County."
It's not something that will happen in the near future, he admitted, but he said it's time to begin the process.
11 YEARS ON COUNCIL
First elected to council in 2003, Renaud worked through his first three-year term as Councillor.
"We accomplished quite a few things," said Renaud, noting he was part of the It's For Everyone Campaign.
Stepping up to Deputy Mayor in 2006, he was a member of Tillsonburg Hydro Inc and served five years as chair of the hydro board. He was re-elected as Deputy Mayor in 2010.
"I believe with my 11 years I have a lot of experience being on the various boards and commissions, including Police Services, the Library Board, and THI."
As Deputy Mayor, Renaud has run council meetings in the Mayor's absence, and feels comfortable in that role. He has represented Tillsonburg at the county level at times.
Born and raised in Kitchener-Waterloo, Renaud was a graduate of Conestoga College, and over the years has gone back to school/university to benefit his work on council, including University of Waterloo and Ryerson.
He has worked most of his adult life in the hospitality industry, through Pizza Hut and Kelsey's.
"The last four years I've worked in the logistics and distribution industry, headquartered in Tillsonburg."