By Doug Hallett
First-term Ward 1 councillor Jim Furfaro is the latest name on a growing list of at least five incumbents who won’t be seeking re-election on Oct. 27.
Furfaro, 67, said Wednesday that he “really wrestled” with the decision of whether to seek a second term. But he concluded being a part-time councillor involves too much commitment and time.
Ward 2’s Coun. Ian Findlay and Ward 5’s Coun. Lise Burcher also announced this week that they won’t be running again.
With Coun. Gloria Kovach also not running and Coun. Cam Guthrie’s mayoral challenge leaving both Ward 4 seats open, at least five of the 12 current ward councillors won’t be trying to keep their council seats. And there could be one more. First-term Ward 2 councillor Andy Van Hellemond indicated this week that he’s teetering between running again and not running and will decide within a few days.
Furfaro was a school principal for 16 years before retiring in 2006 and running for the local Catholic school board.
After four years as a trustee, he ran for council and finished second in a field of 11 Ward 1 candidates, behind incumbent councillor Bob Bell.
After being a school trustee, being a part-time city ward councillor took not only more time than he expected, but “more than I ever imagined,” he said in an interview Wednesday.
“I pretty much gave it my all, because I’m committed to whatever I do. But recognizing the level of commitment that is required, I am not convinced I am able to do it for another four years,” he said.
“I need to find more time for my family.”
With the level of time and commitment needed to be a Guelph ward councillor, a part-time position with part-time pay isn’t enough, he said.
Burcher’s announcement on Monday that she won’t run left only two candidates in Ward 5 – Coun. Leanne Piper and former councillor Cathy Downer.
However, Dimitrios (Jim) Galatianos, filed nomination papers Wednesday in Ward 5, bringing the number of candidates vying for the ward’s two seats up to three. Galatianos ran in Ward 3 in the 2010 civic election.
Findlay, who led the way in use of social media at city hall over eight years on council, announced Tuesday that he won’t be seeking a third term.
“It just felt right to step away and let other people step forward,” he said in an interview Tuesday.
Findlay said he was proud to have been on the leading edge of trying to make city hall “more accountable and transparent” through use of social media.
The Ward 2 blog he started soon after first being elected in 2006 has been a much-used channel for dissemination of city hall news and views.
Some other councillors later started their own blogs, and city hall has increasingly embraced Facebook, Twitter and other social media in recent years.
Looking back Tuesday on eight years as a councillor, though, Findlay said he was most proud of his role in council’s 2007 approval of the Community Energy Initiative and later the creation of Market Square in front of city hall.
“I was an early advocate, as were many others” who pushed for Market Square, he said.
As for the Community Energy Initiative, he thinks it will make a big difference in Guelph over the next 25 years.
Findlay said he’s also proud of the work he has done as a city council representative on three boards – the board of The Elliott long-term care facility, the public library board and the city’s Downtown Nightlife Task Force, which he said has improved things in the bar district.
“I had a fantastic time” on council, he said. Now he is “looking forward to a new adventure,” although he had no details to offer on what this might be. For the moment, he said he’ll concentrate more on the downtown video store he owns and on home-related chores that have been on the back burner.
Piper said after Monday’s city council meeting that she was “really surprised” Burcher, her ward mate, had pulled out of the race earlier that day.
She said Burcher sent her a courtesy email Monday morning about not running but didn’t give any reason for the decision.
Burcher, a councillor since 2003 who has been a director on the board of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities since 2007, could not be reached for comment.
The nomination deadline is 2 p.m. on Friday Sept. 12.