2020-08-26

Contested mayoral race in Lunenburg

by Keith Corcoran

  • <p>John McGee</p>
  • <p>Matt Risser</p>

A former governance consultant's addition to the mayoral race means the chief magistrate's job in Lunenburg will be contested this fall.

Matt Risser, 35, a town councillor in Lunenburg since a 2017 municipal byelection, wants to be front-and-centre to help apply recommendations contained in a community planning blueprint expected to be finalized within the next few months. A draft of the plan is available at www.projectlunenburg.ca on the internet.

Risser feels he possesses the relevant skills, vision and experience to assist with implementation and lead a new mandate of council.

"Just generally, I love the town; it's my hometown, I grew up here. Wherever I was in the world I was a Lunenburger," he recently told LighthouseNOW. His professional background includes stints with the provincial government, Canadian think tanks, and not-for-profits. He's also lived, studied, and worked in Halifax, Ontario, and overseas.

"I think it's really a unique moment for the town, too," Risser added. "It's going to be a moment of change; I think we're going to get a good blend of experience and energy."

Lunenburg's current chief magistrate, Rachel Bailey, announced in November 2019 she won't re-offer as mayor nor run for council. Her time in civic politics started in 2008 with a successful four-year term as councillor. In 2012, she won her first term as mayor and followed with winning three-quarters of the popular vote when she secured a second term in 2016.

In February, the town's deputy mayor, John McGee - a three-term councillor - was first out-of-the-gate to declare his intention to seek the position of mayor.

"There's a long list of issues that need to be discussed: Housing, aging population and infrastructure, [short-term rentals], downtown parking, waste management and our doctor shortage, just to name a few," he declared in a statement at the time announcing his candidacy.

McGee maintains he has the business experience, community service and involvement, and commitment to be a good mayor. "In my last 12 years on council I was able to bring a business view to the discussion of town operations. These are life lessons that can be applied to almost every aspect of the town's operation. I want to continue to have that input."

While Risser was rumoured to enter the race earlier this year, he shelved a public announcement until work on the community plan, known as Project Lunenburg, was further along. The coronavirus pandemic slowed its progress. Risser is chairman of the project steering team.

He likes and respects McGee and looks forward to a positive and spirited campaign.

Modernizing town governance and building additional citizen participation are also on Risser's radar.

"We're blessed with a highly engaged community and I think we need to look at how to make the best use of that as we go forward into the implementation of the [community] plan."

Municipal elections in Nova Scotia take place October 17.

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