UPPER NAPPAN - Representing District 3 on Cumberland County council might be old hat for Keith Hunter, but campaigning for it is not.
The veteran councilor has served in the role for 21 years, including the past 12 as county warden, but has been awarded the seat several times by acclamation. Not this time however, as he will face a challenge on Oct. 20 from opposing candidates Rod Gilroy and Joe O’Byrne.
Gilroy, who has close to 30 years experience as a realtor in Cumberland County, said he would like to see the county do more to support small businesses and create jobs in rural communities.
“I’m running because I believe there’s more municipal government can do to foster business and job growth in rural communities,” said Gilroy, who has been active in the community with Trinity-St. Stephen’s United Church and as a minor basketball coach.
Gilroy added that there are a number of senior’s issues the municipality can be working on, including increasing services such as transportation and working with organizations like the VON to enhance Meals on Wheels and other programs.
“People who are in their 60s, 70s and 80s helped build this community into what it is, we need to make sure they are receiving the services they need,” he said.
Hunter, who said he plans to re-offer for the warden’s position if voters send him back to council on Oct. 20, said there are plenty projects he would like to continue working on in the next four years.
“I feel that I have some unfinished business in a number of initiatives and projects that I’d like to see completed,” Hunter said. “I enjoy doing what I’m doing and there’s still lots left to be done. Everyone says that, but it’s true. We’re just getting started on the Pugwash master plan and the Maccan water and sewer projects are just a couple of things I’d like to see completed.”
Looking ahead, Hunter sees the county becoming a hub of green energy. The county is working with the towns of Springhill and Parrsboro to develop and attract wind, solar, tidal and geothermal energy projects.
“If we can offer a lower power rate to businesses coming into Cumberland County by using green energy we could make this an attractive place to start or maintain a business,” the warden said.
O’Byrne has identified a number of priorities he would like to pursue as councilor for the district, including transportation for seniors; health care, schools; community halls and more farmers’ markets. Economic development is also on his list.
"We're looking for ways to keep our young people here by providing opportunities and jobs, but we're not getting results," he said. "Our children are leaving because there are no jobs and no opportunity. The only way we can do that is by creating jobs, but we're not doing that. We're not self-sustaining."
O’Byrne said he would also call for a 10-year moratorium on fracking, and would try to help more small businesses get established in the county. He said he would also like to see better results from tourist attractions like the Joggins Fossil Centre and Thinker's Lodge.
"I'm not opposed to either Joggins or the Thinker's Lodge, I just think we need to review them and how they're being operated," he said. I just think we need to fix them so they are doing what they were supposed to."
All three candidates will face off in a debate at the Tidnish Community Centre on Thursday, Oct. 11 at 7 p.m.