The NG Times sat down with Councillor Donovan Arnaud last week to talk about his two years on Council.
NG Times: You have now reached the end of your second year as Councillor on the North Grenville Municipal Council, and we thought this would be a good time to take a look at the past two years and report on what’s been happening.
Donovan: The job takes more time than I imagined, and you have to be available to the people when they have a problem or an idea. That means you meet with them, not just in Council meetings, but whenever they want to talk to you. You represent them, so you bring their concerns to the Council table, to staff, or to whoever can be of help to them. So, as someone thinking of running for the job, you ask yourself: can I do that? Would my being on Council benefit the community and bring something to the table that would be worth having? It is a four-year commitment, and you have to be ready to make decisions and deal with issues as they come up. There is a very steep learning curve, I found, and you need to lean on your colleagues and staff in order to learn the ropes, the procedures and the job.
NG Times: So, would you recommend the job to others?
Donovan: Looking ahead five or ten years, it’s important that we have an active Council, ready to get things done for the benefit of the people of North Grenville. After two years on Council, I’ve learned a few things about what it takes to have that kind of Council. I would recommend that anyone thinking of running in next year’s election think about these things. You need to know that you have something to offer, that you have the energy, time and commitment to be involved. You have to ask yourself: do I have something to contribute? Do I have that wider vision that can make things better for the people of this community, or am I just looking for an ego boost by being a Councillor?
NG Times: What, specifically, do you feel has been accomplished in your two years to date?
Donovan: My area of responsibility on council has been Economic Development, and I’ve chaired the Economic Development Advisory Committee, which is a Committee of Council made up of members of the public and myself, along with municipal staff support.
The Committee has been in place for a few years now, and it was decided, earlier this year, to have a review of the entire Economic Development approach that has been taken in North Grenville. We are expecting huge growth in population and development over the next ten years, and we needed to stop and take a breath, to see where things have been working, and where they could be better. So, an Economic Development Review was begun and a report on that has now been presented to Council and the Committee. The Report can be found on the Municipal web site, and has a number of recommendations for the future.
NG Times: How do you see the Report changing policy or attitudes to economic development in the municipality?
Donovan: I hope to see the Economic Development Advisory Committee play an active role in implementing those recommendations. What we need in North Grenville is a wider vision of where we’re going, and how to get there. This means much more than just building more houses and stores, it means targeting jobs for our growing population, jobs that are well-paying and long-term in areas like technical and scientific services, finance and insurance. The Report says that agri-businesses is expected to represent one of the fastest growing employment sectors for North Grenville, and we have to build on that.
NG Times: How do you see your role in future?
Donovan: Our job on Council, and on the Advisory Committee, is to make things easier for people to do business here. Recently, there’s been a lot of controversy over how a local business has been treated by the Municipality. Councillor Bertram and I have been working to get that fixed and to find a way of making sure that doesn’t happen again. We have procedures and regulations that are not always helpful, and I believe process should serve people, and not prevent them from achieving what they could. On Council, we’re there to serve the residents of North Grenville and that is our business.
Process and procedure is essential to keep everything on track, and that is the role of staff. I believe we have an excellent team working at the Municipality and we work together to make things happen. The Economic Development Review was part of that. I am not a procedure kind of person, my job is to get things done the best way we can and allow people to get on with the least amount of interference.
North Grenville has a vibrant future ahead of it and the next five or ten years will be vital in deciding the direction we take. This is an exciting idea, and needs a lot of thought and vision. The Economic Development Review is part of that: a stepping back to rethink where we’re going and adjust to changes that are happening around us. We need that wider vision, and we need the whole community to be part of it.