Mayor Joe Preston and the incoming councillors were sworn in during a ceremony at city hall Monday (Dec. 3). Prior to Preston’s inaugural speech, Pastor Steven McCready from Faith Church, in his charge to council, noted: “This city has changed immensely in the three years I’ve been here.”
However, McCready pointed out, “Mayor, there is still lots to do. Let’s work together and make St. Thomas proud. When the city prospers, the people prosper. And when the people prosper, they find peace. The thing all people are searching for.”
And McCready reminded all in attendance, “Prosperity is not the same as wealth. It means to flourish and be successful.”
The following is the full transcript of Mayor Joe Preston’s inaugural address.
“This is the beginning of something new and the word propel is exactly what we’re looking to do. I’d like to give my thanks to the past council and Mayor (Heather) Jackson for moving this city into a place we can be exceptionally proud of. The group of you who were here and the new people who are here, we are happy to take the torch.
“Thank you to city management and city staff for doing the same thing. St. Thomas is a place we can be proud of because we have great people who think the same way. Thank you to the voters of St. Thomas for electing this team.
“I want to talk a little bit about smart growth. St. Thomas is growing at a very rapid pace and we need to be smart about what we do and how we do that. We want to make sure we end up with not just growth but end up with a place all of the citizens of St. Thomas would truly want this to be.
“But first, I want to point out in order to do that, we have to have a level of open communication and cooperation that is second to none. This group must have that. We must have, collectively, open communication. The management group and council must have that level of open communication and cooperation or we will go nowhere.
“So, I pray that is exactly where we are headed. Take a look at this council. Steve Peters, a great friend and a strong advocate for the City of St. Thomas. Jeff Kohler has been on council a number of years and another great friend. Gary Clarke, a great job on the last council. Lori Baldwin-Sands, returning to this council having spent time here before.
“Linda Stevenson, again part of that last council that left St. Thomas in such a great place. Mark Tinlin, again, our conversations have been outstanding, to begin with as a council. Joan Rymal, thank you for what you do. Thank you for what you bring. And, Jim Herbert, our newest member and we’re looking so favourable on this, as a team.
The strength, wisdom and ideas that this group can bring are incredible. It’s unstoppable. Our city can be that much greater and move forward from a smart growth point of view.
“That’s the cooperation and open communication that this group must bring. Sometimes it will be a pat on the back, sometimes it will be a little bit lower and with a different intention.
“That’s what we need to do. That’s what this council is here for. That’s why we’ll do it.
Look, that same open communication and cooperation have to happen from this group and from many other groups to our neighbours. Central Elgin and Southwold, communities that border our community, need our love, respect, help and admiration too for being who they are. And, we want to keep that open communication. The County of Elgin, and the cooperation and open communication between us and that group.
“And, how about the City of London. It’s that nice bedroom community for the City of St. Thomas. And, a great friend was elected mayor there (former MP Ed Holder) and many other friends elected to council. I can see already, an open communication and cooperation that can happen with that group also.
“And, that is nothing but positive for us.
“I’ve also had the opportunity to speak to a number of the local mayors in southern Ontario and, moving forward, smiling and saying how can you beat southern Ontario with the team that southern Ontario now has.
“Let’s keep the momentum going. And, keep that going with the open communication.
There’s another couple of levels of government – the provincial government is new and working forward and the federal government is new and working forward – and we have to, as a community, work forward and cooperatively with them, so the cooperation and open communication doesn’t stop at our level or with other communities near us.
Smart growth will occur in St. Thomas. We almost can’t stop it. Growth will occur and we have to make sure it’s started. St. Thomas has grown into an historically motivated, economically driven, caring and volunteer-assisted city.
“Let’s do more of that.
“Let’s jealously protect the jobs we already have. Let’s jealously protect the industries and enterprises that are already part of St. Thomas. Let’s reach out to them and make sure this community is doing everything we can for them.
“Let’s attract business from afar. Let’s attract if from wherever we can, whether they are traditional businesses or new technology businesses based on our fibre optics or whatever else we can attract. Let’s make sure we are reaching out.
“Let’s grow jobs from the start-up and mentoring that our Economic Development Corporation already does. They are strong and great at it. We have fantastic businesses in this community to help new businesses start.
“Whether your business is in your garage or your basement if your business is currently that small, we’ve got a home for you. Whether it’s on Talbot Street or in a small factory or a big factory, we’ve got a home for you in St. Thomas.
“Let’s reach out and see if we can grow smartly in the area of economics.
“We also have to grow smartly in the area of housing. We have to make this pledge as a council that everybody in this community has a home. That everybody can have a place where they can afford to live and live comfortably. You can’t get up and go to work in the morning if you don’t have a place to live. We make this pledge as a council and this council and I have spoken on this already and will continue to.
“We have to make sure we are building everything we can build. Hey builders, get building. If you build homes, build homes. If you build apartments, build apartments. If you renovate apartments, renovate apartments. If you renovate storefronts, keeping doing it. We need every new home, every new apartment this community can build and then some. And it’s important that we do everything we can do to make that happen.
We need to infill the land that we have in our community and we need to grow in whatever way that we can.
“There’s a saying that being involved in your community is the rent you pay for living someplace. I know that this group already believes that or they would not have run for council.”
“This council must also make a commitment toward getting people to work. In the last campaign, we talked a lot about transit. This group will have to decide what we can do to move forward in order to get our people to work on time, in place and seven days a week. I think it’s important we make those decisions and reach forward and do it.
“No smart city grows without amenities. Whether it’s parks, our new soccer complex, our new trails, good roads and good sidewalks. All of the things cities have to offer, and some of them not very glamorous. We need to make sure we grow smartly in each of those areas. And, are able to do it and do it better than any of the cities around us.
“But, you know what else, folks. Smart communities with smart growth care. This community has a background of being a great place that cares. We’ve been through troubles. Two world wars, a couple of economic downturns. You name it, we’ve been reminded in the past it’s gotta get better. Well, it is better. Now, let’s reach out. I challenge council, I challenge everyone in this room to help lift St. Thomas higher than the other communities in southern Ontario.
“That collectively our volunteerism, our efforts to make it right for all of the citizens of St. Thomas is important.
“There’s a saying that being involved in your community is the rent you pay for living someplace. I know that this group already believes that or they would not have run for council. I challenge the rest of us to make St. Thomas better by participating, by being that group. By making it a richer place, we will be a community above the rest.
“And, not just economic prosperity. But a great place to live, a great place to say you are from, a proud place to wander downtown. Those are the things we’ll do. There is no limit to the growth that St. Thomas can show if we all reach out and lift St. Thomas higher.
“Thank you. God bless you all. And God bless a vibrant St. Thomas. Thank you for coming out and listening to us tonight.”
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