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Guelph Mercury Editorial
October 25, 2003

Look For Good Intentions and a Clear, Positive Aim

I grew up in a cottage on the shores of Sturgeon Bay, the swampy, shallow cousin of Georgian Bay. My front yard sported a wooden dock made by my dad, my own red aluminum row boat and a horseshoe pitch that was the testing ground for my brothers' athletic prowess.

The isolation endured through the cold, snow-laden winters would be erased immediately by the arrival of the cottagers, many with my surname, in the early spring. I spent my summers roaming, barefoot and swimsuit-clad, from picnic table to cottage porch, foraging for treats, affection and adventure. It was an idyllic environment and I was free to grow wild.

My lifestyle was no accident but rather one that came from the forward-thinking stewardship of my dad. On one level, he did what most parents try to do for their children: provide a safe and healthy environment for their offspring to live and thrive in. But because he was a smart, resourceful man with exceptional creativity, his master plan went far beyond the average.

It included the purchase of a large tract of raw, waterfront land that he developed into recreational property. Dad's vision was comprehensive and included child safety features right from the start. The pothole-laced, dead-end road effectively calmed and reduced unrelated traffic.

He sold cottage lots to our extended family and its diverse network of friends so that everyone was somehow related or connected to at least one other household. Then he built the cottages in the size and design that fit the environment and pocketbook of the new owner.

He crafted us a modest cottage-home that was naturally heated by a wood stove. As the population grew, he offered essential services like a public telephone and a spare freezer for cottagers which in turn helped control and maintain the easy pace that made for long, lazy summers.

He became the authority on trees, gardening, septic tanks, fishing spots and well-witching. Fifty years later, Dad's vision has held true and many of the original families continue to thrive on Richards' Beach.

His exceptional stewardship came both naturally and due to a life of complex experience. His leadership wasn¹t always perfect, but it was grounded in good intentions and a clear, positive aim.

When I moved to Guelph in 1981 I knew nothing about the city, past or present. My only reason for choosing to live in Guelph was to attend the university. Now, over 20 years later, I feel deep roots and immense community pride.

It is obvious to me that Guelph has had the good fortune of having experienced, creative stewards in charge of our cultural heritage, natural environment and our city plan over the years. If you doubt this for a moment, spend an afternoon walking around one of the many inner-city trails or go on an Arts Council heritage walk. Then try to do the same thing in a similar-sized city. It is painfully obvious that many urban centres in Ontario have consistently lacked the balanced leadership of experienced visionaries.

Guelphites are about to go to the polls to elect a group of stewards who will be in charge of our home ground for the next three years. And we are lucky to be able to choose from a good number of smart, broadly experienced leaders with excellent vision, good intention and clear focus. Thankfully, every ward has at least two fine candidates ready and willing to lead the way. The only component required to guarantee our community's balanced future is your involvement.

As a child, I was lucky. My dad's intention had me front and centre. As voters, we must look carefully behind the smoke and mirrors to find the clearest voices. Not all candidates on the ballot card have your well-being and future in mind.

Figuring out the best person for the job can be a time-consuming and daunting task. But there is an easy solution. If a candidate can only rant about the stupidity of every decision that has been made since the first mighty oak fell and rave that we are all going to hell in a hand basket, you can be pretty sure that they are an out-to-lunch crank with an axe to grind. Negativity does not bode well for a healthy future.

Instead, vote for the candidates with a positive voice and a compliment for good work completed. Pooled together by our votes, we can make a great city better.

Sue Richards is a social entrepreneur, artist and cultural animator. She is also a member of the Mercury's Community Editorial Board. Check out her Guelph Photo Blog.

Contact Sue Richards at [email protected]

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