Willatt running for mayor

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John Willatt wants to bring ideas from the public with him in his quest to run for mayor.
John Willatt wants to bring ideas from the public with him in his quest to run for mayor.

John Willatt has a vision of what he’d like to see done for Chatham-Kent, but he also wants to hear from the public.

Willatt recently filed his nomination papers to run for mayor. He joins Marjorie Crew and Reno Lachapelle as the people who have come forward to date. Incumbent Randy Hope has said he plans to file his papers in September.

Willatt has twice sought public office as a Chatham councillor, but believes voting for council is more a matter of name recognition.

“A lot of people have been on council for a long while. People may not know much about municipal politics, but they do know names,” he said.

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And there is typically a logjam of people seeking a seat on council in Chatham. Willatt said the last time he ran, there were 20 people on the ballot for the six seats.

He believes in listening to the public, something he’ll do during his campaign, he said.

“I think issues will develop over the next few months. I want to listen to the people and hear what they’ve got to say,” Willatt said. “I’m sure there are some great ideas out there.”

One of his is to keep a tighter rein on tax increases.

“There is a general concern about property taxes,” he said. “You always seem to hear that if you cut the budget, hell will descend upon you. Libraries would close and gangs of people would be running in the streets because of fewer police officers. You always hear the worst.”

Willatt would like to see the municipality try to hold the budget at 0% for a few years; Windsor did it.

“If you keep it at 0% for a couple of years, you do manage to have an effect,” he said. “The people in Chatham-Kent are just getting by. They have little to no savings and are living paycheque to paycheque. Property tax increases can have a huge effect on them.”

Willatt also realizes council can’t maintain 0% forever, plus it can’t just slash and burn to save money. Careful planning must take place.

Such planning needs to go into economic development as well. While no trip is a sure thing, he believes overseas excursions should have a decent potential for a return, or they just aren’t worth it.

Willatt thinks there is better chance for investment to come from the European Union than from Asia.

“We have better potential of building relationships there.”

The owner of Ace Taxi also believes strongly in improving youth retention. He gave a tip of the hat to the baCK program, but said jobs are needed to entice our youth to return.

“Chatham-Kent is a nice place to bring up kids. They go off to university and they don’t come back,” he said. “We need to create jobs that the people will come back to.”

Willatt also believes issues such as public transit and council restructuring should be examined to improve service levels and efficiency respectively.

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