In what’s quickly turning into the election contest to watch, long-time Port McNeill Mayor Gerry Furney faces his toughest competition in decades as he faces off against Coun. Shelley Downey.
Port McNeill Mayor Gerry Furney maintained he’s so confident of a Nov. 19 win, he’s already campaigning for the 2014 municipal election
Of course, the 78-year-old said that with tongue placed firmly in cheek, but the fact remains he’s been on the Port McNeill council for 43 years, 34 years as mayor.
The iconic politician was a Port McNeill councillor for seven years before he was elected as mayor in 1973. In the very next election in 1975 — there were only two year terms then — he was defeated by a single vote, but roared back for another win in 1977.
While he praised his opponent as a “good councillor and a good person,” Furney said he’s not ready to step down just yet because he knows what’s important in Port McNeill and how to keep the machine running.
“I made my living out of the resource industries, which have been pilloried by outfits which have promoted a green agenda,” he told the Gazette.
“They really don’t care about the companies, their employees and families in little communities — they’d shut them all down if they could.”
Furney said he’s made no secret that he’s taken a strong position against organizations that suggest there should be no more logging, no more mining and no more aquaculture.
“Where are people going to work if that happens?” he said.
“If council does nothing else it should be promoting and giving support to the industries that support our people.”
While things are getting economically tough in most North Island communities right now, Port McNeill seems strong by comparison and Furney said that’s because he and his council do what they can to keep jobs in town.
“Geographically we’re in good position and we’ve kept a policy over the years of working with businesses as much as we possibly can — cooperating with them and helping them any way we could, politically or otherwise,” he said.
“We’ve held a very tight line on taxes, our business taxes are one and-a-half times residential taxes, in other places they’re as much as 10 times more.”
Furney said he’s proud of the fact “we always balanced our budgets.
“We’ve never spent more than we can afford.,” he said.
“While we’ve had to borrow for our water pipeline, that we’re replacing section by section, we borrowed well within our ability.”
Furney’s also proud of Port McNeill’s modernized waterfront.
“We managed to get a sea walk built, we bought a big chunk of land and turned it into a harbour office and also an information centre for the chamber of commerce — probably the fanciest digs of any chamber of commerce on the island,” he said.
“We extended our breakwater about another 100-ft which increased the safety of the boats in the harbour.”
Besides all that, Furney said he should earn the win if voters simply look at the leadership and management he’s shown.
“I enjoy the community and believe municipal council has to be well run and has to have the right attitude,” he said.
“Produce the services for the people, keep the taxes as low as we can get by with and don’t think we’re bigger than we really are.”