© Dave Mathieson - Amherst Daily News
Doug Dobson (centre, right) can be found most mornings with friends at the Subway in Springhill. Dobson was recently sharing a coffee with (from left) Harold Arseneau, Roy Cormier and Mike Kay.
SPRINGHILL – Doug Dobson starts his seventh consecutive term on Springhill Town Council with one blemish on his electoral record.
“In the previous six elections I was top vote getter each time,” said Dobson. “This was the first time I didn’t finish on top.”
Dobson finished the election with 880 votes, second to Harold Delaney, the retired CIBC bank manager, who had 981 votes.
“Mr. Delaney is a newcomer but he comes in highly respected with a lot of experience behind him. He will certainly be an asset for town council and the town in general.”
During the election Dobson was concerned the electorate might reject him.
“This time around there were excellent candidates coming forth and I knew I’d be in for a run,” said the 69-year-old. “And history shows that individuals who have been in a long time, there develops a feeling that a change could be in the wind.”
Five candidates competed for the four council jobs, with Lance Lockwood being the only candidate to not make the cut.
“He had 700 votes and, if you look at the total votes for each candidate, 700 was fairly close to the rest of us,” said Dobson. “He worked hard, so I knew he was going to draw a good vote.”
Dobson said this is his last election. He ran for a seventh term because of his enthusiasm for the candidates who put their name forward for the election.
“I’m still energized, and when I looked at the caliber of candidates that were running I felt good,” he said. “I felt the town, regardless of who got in, would be in good hands.”
Dobson was on council for two terms with mayor Rosemary Mullins, and in council for one term with mayors Mary Dee MacPherson, Bill Mont, Guy Brown and out-going mayor, Allen Dill.
“Like most of us, they all had strengths and weaknesses,” said Dobson. “Springhill had their first female mayor (Mullins) when I first got in and I felt that council did well under her leadership.”
He said good mayors need to be good team players to be successful.
“Good leadership skills come to mind,” said Dobson. “A mayor should be able to work good with, and cooperate with, their council. You need good communication skills and you need the ability to negotiate with government officials.”
He says Brown was a good negotiator.
“Guy Brown, with his past experience in provincial government, had a lot of positive input into negotiations,” said Dobson. “He knew the system quite well. Although his health was an issue he had resources that he knew and could count on.
“Also, I found Mary Dee’s communication with council was certainly above average and she kept us well informed, which was important.”
Dobson said he doesn’t know mayor-elect Max Snow very well but was advised by him that teamwork with council will be an important part of his mandate.
“We’ll work together as a group to resolve issues that arise,” said Dobson. “We need him and he needs us, and if we do that, we’ll have a good council.”
After he was elected as mayor, Snow said there would be more transparency under his leadership.
Does Dobson see a transparency deficit inside town hall?
“Transparency can always be improved, and not only with mayor, but with council and staff,” said Dobson. “There’s always improvements that can be made.”
Asked to specify, Dobson says communication and teamwork among, the mayor, council, and all departments is key.
“The teamwork has to involve senior staff, and all staff that’s employed with the town,” said Dobson. “It’s nice to form one big happy team, and I think when you’re negotiating with them and talking with them there’s that respect that comes out.”
Many towns and municipalities, including the Municipality of Cumberland County, have department heads presenting reports during the council meetings. The Town of Springhill did that for a while but Dobson said, “it started to slip away from us for various reasons.”
“A couple of terms ago it was recommended by an audit that was done that we should bring the heads to a meeting so we could meet with them and talk to them with their reports.
“I think it’s important that reports are done during council meetings because the press is there and people can hear from the various departments and see what’s going on and what the town is doing,” he added. “I would like to see more of that. I’m sure that will be discussed with the new council. That’s one of the issues I have.”
What are some other challenges Dobson see facing Springhill in the immediate future?
“We had a lot of positive results in the last year that should be continued,” said Dobson. “Maintaining our budget was a big thing.
“We’re always under scrutiny by the province,” he added. “We’re one of nine towns, because of our financial situation, that are under close watch, so we keep a good eye on our budget and our expenditures.
“Our overall budget is around $6 million, and there’s always contracts to deal with, unionized contracts and staff contracts, and we still haven’t heard from the policing contract yet,” said Dobson. “We have to take a serious look at where we are financially all the time.”