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.
f she wins, Shelley Downey could go down in the history books as the candidate who took out Gerry Furney, one of Canada’s longest serving mayors.
“I have no fear,” said Downey.
“I think what I’m offering is a new approach to government,” she said.
“I’m interested the direction the town is going and other councillors and people in PM want to craft a vision for our town and I believe I’d be an excellent facilitator to put that together.”
The 47-year-old admits she’s unaware of any real dissatisfaction with Furney’s administration
There is, however, a buzz for change on the streets, she said.
“People hold Gerry in very high regard and have the utmost respect for him, however they’re looking for something new,” said Downey, who added she’s striking while the iron’s hot.
“The time is right is because what I’m hearing is it’s time for a change and people are looking for something new,” she said.
“They’re wondering what our vision is, what is our plan? What direction are we going in? Those are the questions I’m hearing. What will Port McNeill be 10 or 20 years down the road.
“I think people want to have a say in the planning and charting that course.”
Downey, who’s been on council two terms, said it’s past the time when Port McNeill should be setting its course for the future.
“The official community plan was done in 1997 and that would be the best tool for planning and laying out guidelines,” she said.
“It’s been a priority of a number of councils to upgrade it, but our mayor would say it wasn’t being done because of cost.”
And that lack of vision, Downey said, is the No. 1 issue in Port McNeill.
“The vision can’t be one person’s vision, it has to come from the community,” she said.
“I have things I see I’d like to see personally addressed … but it really needs to come from the citizens of the town and they’re the ones I believe need to have their voices heard.”
Downey said she’d make that happen through a series of town hall meetings and other means to learn what’s in the minds of those in Port McNeill.
“People are ready for a change and ready to reinvent who and what they are,” she said.
“They’re looking for an ear to hear their voice and come up with an action plan and put together a direction and a vision for the town.”
Still, when it comes to the town’s economy, Downey said it will be the status quo when it comes to business and industry in her seaside town.
“In Port McNeill what has been — and will continue to be — is looking after our existing industries; forestry, aquaculture, tourism,” she said.
“We can certainly support our industries and I think our tax position is already favourable.”
And building on Port McNeill’s positives are key, she said.
“We need to build on our strengths, we need to identify areas of improvement, identify what our citizens are wanting and then we need to pursue and have discussions as to what that will look like going forward and how to achieve those.”