FM: What prompted you to enter the race for Mayor this year, Anne-Marie?
AMG: Positive leadership matters! Now more than ever, Sarnia needs progressive opportunities and growth. Our Sarnia community deserves an experienced leader who can work directly and competently with staff, councilors, and the people of Sarnia to promote the true potential of this Great City. I am that person and with the support of all Sarnians, as Mayor I will lead the city into a “new era” of accountability, positive relationships, and growth in so many areas.
FM: What do you see as your most relevant qualifications to take on the Mayoral task?
AMG: As City Councilor for almost 12 years, I’ve learned that positive communication with the public, staff, and counsellors is the most important element in any healthy city. We can do much better than we are now with my leadership. As well as being an effective and accomplished councilor, I have also been tasked with being the sole liaison between the current Mayor and city staff. This opportunity has given me tremendous insight and experience as to why positive communication and effective leadership is critical for the health and welfare of our city and our relationship with all levels of government and industry. I am already providing positive and transparent leadership to staff and fellow councilors on a daily basis.
FM: Would you care to give us some insight as to who Anne-Marie Gillis is?
AMG: I was born and raised in the Maritimes, the middle child of seven children. My father worked for Canada Customs and as a result our family moved many times. I learned from an early age how to embrace change and welcome challenge.
I am an Honours graduate of Sault College Health Sciences Division, and became a Registered Nurse.
My Husband Blair and I came to Sarnia on our honeymoon to work and live in this great city. Needless to say, we fell in love with Sarnia, its people, and the beautiful Blue Water surrounding us. We raised our 3 children Darryl (who works and lives in Calgary with his young family) Vanessa and Selyn (who work and live with their families in Sarnia).
FM: What can you tell us about your work and accomplishments?
AMG: I was first elected to office in 1997 as a trustee with the newly amalgamated Lambton Kent Separate School Board. During my 3 years in office, my fellow trustees and I wrote new policies and procedures to create the entity known as the St. Clair Catholic District School Board. It was a daunting but necessary task which brought clarity of governance for the new organization.
My next elected position was that of a City Councilor for the City of Sarnia. During my three year term I fulfilled a campaign promise to create a long term financial policy to lower the City’s debt of $110m. The policy came into effect in 2005, resulting in a debt reduction of approximately $100m in 13 years.
During that term I also convinced council to back a motion calling for the reduction in the Education Portion of our tax bill which makes up 30% of what you pay in residential taxes. That motion led to the recalculation of the formula at the provincial level, which has lowered that portion of your tax bill consistently since 2004, without affecting education.
Currently I am a City/County Councilor, a position I have held since 2006. During my time in office I have been the Deputy Warden of Lambton County, and Chair of committees covering a variety of roles. As well, I reintroduced the concept of Paperless agendas to County Council, a pilot project first introduced by Warden Pat Davidson when she served on County Council, but was abandoned. The majority on County Council welcomes technology and now uses IPads.
Other accomplishments have been; assisting with Lambton College Capital Builds; Overseeing the building of Maxwell Park Place, an Affordable Housing Building for Seniors on fixed incomes and the disabled; the Judith and Norman Alix Art gallery that brought new life to Sarnia’s Downtown Core, the addition to Lambton Public Health; the stabilization of funding for Tourism Sarnia Lambton, and the expansions at the UWO Research Park.
I was also part of the City Council that has created a new Strategic Plan in 2015. The implementation of that plan led to record surpluses three years in a row, while paying down debt and keeping tax increases to a reasonable rate. These were major milestones, as Councilor Mike Kelch recently shared on City of Sarnia (Unofficial) Facebook Page these facts that he and we are proud of.
FM: Were you also the Chair of the Sarnia Police Services?
AMG: Yes I was. I was elected by my peers on the Sarnia Police Board to serve as Chair for 2005-06, the only other person to hold that position in the last 18 years. This is healthy to have Chairs change!
The Police Services Board of 2005-06, subcommittee consisting of myself as chair, Mary Kehoe Smith, Don Cook, and Ray Fillion updated all the governance and procedural policies, created the position of Vice-Chair and interviewed and hired Phil Nelson as Deputy Chief. We accomplished all of this in one year and these progressive changes led to many accomplishments for the people of Sarnia.
FM: You were also instrumental in introducing the Communities in Bloom project. Can you elaborate somewhat on this for us please?
AMG: My involvement with Communities in Bloom has brought a lot of accolades to our city. As Chair I have been proud of the many members of our committee, who’ve worked together to showcase our city and its citizens. Governor General Julie Payette says it all “By enhancing our Green Spaces, Communities in Bloom is working to build a better future”. Sarnia adopted this motto and we have been rewarded as Provincial, National and International winners in the Large City Category competing against cities with more than a million people. This program provides Global exposure to our city that is Fantastic! Marketing our community is important to the people of Sarnia and to me.
FM: What are your wants and aspirations for the City of Sarnia and her citizens?
AMG: I want to ignite a fire of hope, create a vision of growth, and promote our vibrant community through mutual respect and Collaborative Leadership. Positive leadership matters! I have a lot more information on my facebook page( Anne Marie Gillis for Mayor) and my website www.votegillis2018.ca My campaign office is downtown beside ‘One tooth’ please come to talk to me on Wednesday Aug 8th, 5-8pm.
FM: What would you identify as your most significant priorities?
AMG: First and foremost, my priority is the health, safety, and positive governance for the City of Sarnia.
My priorities are from listening to the people of Sarnia. I know how to make things happen.
One of my top priorities is safety. Many streets and roads are in desperate need of repair. Now that Council has wrestled the debt to a manageable level, we need to reinvest for the safety of the people.
Neighborhood streets such as Ross Avenue and Echo Road as well as Plank Road are in dire need of repair and that’s just to name a few. Investing in safe and effective infrastructure is critically important to a strong and vibrant community.
Projects like sewer and water treatment upgrades are pivotal for the health of our Citizens and for the health of the environment, but roads matter too. We also need to address the entrance to the Walmart Plaza, as I hear this all the time.
On the issue of health, we need to find solutions to help those suffering from addiction and other ailments.
We will strengthen our relationship with Lambton Public Health and health agencies to help those who are suffering. We will work to find solutions that are community based. We will ensure that our emergency services have the tools they need to assist those in crisis. Giving someone hope is a powerful motivator and helps us all!
FM: You have demonstrated a strong interest in increasing the footprint of modern technology within the Sarnia area.
AMG: In this age we live in, with social media, and split – second trading of information, Technology and Connectivity availability are essential to the success of a vibrant and dynamic smart city.
The introduction of WiFi in our downtown core will serve as a pilot project to determine what is needed for the entrepreneurs of the digital age. WiFi on our transit buses will encourage ridership and curb pollution. WiFi in our parks will encourage citizens to use them more and help curb vandalism.
FM: One of the issues that seems to become part of conversation is the lack of a Grocery Store within the Downtown. Would you agree with this?
AMG: Yes. I definitely agree that with the need for a downtown grocery. This is a discussion that has taken place often. For some time now we have been witnessing a resurgence in the growth of our downtown, from new business ventures to the on-going and planned construction of new living accomodations. This brings a new density to the area, and a grocery store is essential.
FM: What do you see as key to supporting the various business sectors of Sarnia.
AMG: We are very fortunate in Sarnia to have the very diverse economy that we can promote with the right leadership…a positive leadership that will work with that diversity…the small businesses, our farmers, those who work at our Harbour, the creative class and the working class, the petro-chemical plants and the bio-chemical plants, the service industry and the retail industry.
Sarnia has a wonderful quality of life that attracts people from all walks of life regardless of age. From daycares to retirement homes, from beautiful parks to world class beaches, we can take care of you! Together, we’ll build and grow the fabric that will make Sarnia a coveted destination. Tourism initiatives woven into economic development will enable us to tell our story to the world! We have the tools; we have the knowhow…we just need the positive leadership to bring it all together.
There are many more important issues that I haven’t touched on because there’s probably not enough room in this interview but rest assured, they are known and will be addressed soon.
FM: Do you have any further thoughts that you might like to share with us?
AMG: Yes I do.
As a Wife, Mother, Mentor and Leader, I understand how important family and relationships are. I know how important communication is to develop and strengthen positive relationships. This comes naturally to me. It is what I do now and will continue to do when I am elected as Mayor.
I have the experience, I have the determination, and most importantly I have the positive vision to be the next Mayor of this great city of Sarnia. I ran for Mayor 18 years ago and I have been working for the Sarnia people ever since, in so many areas, I have the experience, dedication, and passion for the people of Sarnia.
Positive Leadership Matters.
Thank you for your confidence and vote!