By Craig Campbell Dundas Star News
Toby Yull and Marc Risdale both figure there is no time like the present to run for Hamilton City Council.
The two Dundas residents registered as candidates for the Ward 13 council seat in the October 27 municipal election last Wednesday, days after veteran Dundas councillor Russ Powers officially announced he would not be running again.
“I said — this is my chance,” said Risdale, 42. “The incumbent is always tough to beat — and Russ is synonymous with Dundas.”
Risdale and his wife moved to Dundas 12 years ago, and he immersed himself into the community right away. He said he volunteers with Dundas Community Services, changing the message board at Memorial Square.
“It’s a small thing, but it gives me a connection to people here,” Risdale said.
As an automotive engineer for a large global company, Risdale is used to short-term and long-term planning, and his early campaign revolves around small day-to-day work plus grander visions. And he doesn’t want to be “pigeon-holed” as a particular type of candidate.
“I’m very passionate about cycling. That being said, I’m an automotive engineer — I’m a car guy,” Risdale said.
A member of the Hamilton Cycling Committee, Risdale is part of a recent outreach to individual city councillors. He explained that each councillor has a veto over implementation of cycling master plan projects in their ward. Rather than complain, the committee has worked with councillors to show the benefits of new cycling infrastructure.
“It’s helped give me a flavor of what’s going on in the city,” Risdale said. “You realize how hard staff works, and how hard councillors work.”
Risdale said he plans to maintain a daily blog during the campaign, summarizing what he’s doing and elaborating on his platform.
“I want it to be a two-way conversation. I want communication,” he said. “I’m committed to transparency.”
One of his first priorities is finding a way to safely get students to the former Highland Secondary School on Governor’s Road as it transitions to Dundas’ only high school in 2015.
“I’m open to ideas,” he said, suggesting a possible bi-directional bike lane on the south side of Governor’s. “There has to be a safe way for kids to get to school other than being driven or taking a bus. A way to walk and bike to school, separate from traffic. That’s an immediate goal.”
Yull has been considering entering the race since January, shortly after marking her 6oth birthday and 30th year in business as an interior designer. She was waiting to see what Powers decided to do.
“I’ve spent half my life in this beautiful profession and have no desire to run away. I’ve always had an urban issues geek inside me,” Yull said. “If I don’t feed this now, when will I?”
Yull said she has experience working in the City of Victoria’s clerk’s office, the City of London’s engineering department and with the City of Hamilton’s community development department before opening her own business.
She said her work requires her to travel across the city and meet with people in their homes — giving her a diverse perspective on Hamilton and its residents.
“It’s allowed me a window into neighbourhoods and what it’s like living in those neighbourhoods,” Yull said.
She believes there are many divisions in the city, and sees her role as a councillor to help fill those gaps and helping heal rifts. As an interior designer, she keeps the end user of a home in mind when working with the conflicting interests of electricians, plumbers and other professionals.
“I’m always trying to synthesize what’s going on between strong personalities and egos. I think I can bring that to the table.”
Yull said Dundas “has a good thing going” and that naturally attracts people to the community. But with little space for growth, few young families can afford to live in the Valley Town. She wants to see growth that will permit a wider variety of people in Dundas.
“I do think we need to build, and that needs to be intelligently done. There’s infill to do,” Yull said. “I want to be part of the wave of fresh, new energy. Though the old guard served well, I think there’s an appetite for the new.
Yull and Risdale join Danya Scime as the first three registered Dundas candidates. Scime ran in 2010 and finished second to Powers by 3,123 votes. Powers’ assistant Arlene Vanderbeek said she intends to register by mid-August.
Watch the Dundas Star News and hamiltonnews.com for ongoing coverage of the October 27 municipal election.