The president of the Vermilion Trails Society (VTS) has announced her intention to run for mayor of Princeton in 2018.
Leona Guerster, 46, said her interest in municipal politics became acute about two years ago, when the town passed a controversial bylaw banning off road vehicles on the three km of Trans Canada Trail within Princeton boundaries.
“I’ve been paying attention and going to council meetings and what really triggered was when the petition to keep the KVR open was ignored,” she said in an interview with The Spotlight.
“That really stuck out at me and I thought instead of being a part of the problem it’s time to be part of the solution and get active and involved.”
Guerster, who is also a director of the Chamber of Commerce, was elected to lead the VTS last April. She wants to the see the KVR “open, shared trail for everyone.”
She acknowledged the society is currently suing the town of Princeton for $35,000 in a small claims case centered on the ownership of the historic caboose that sits near the trail.
“It’s pretty well known that we are in a legal dispute over the caboose. I have also gone through the files with the VTS and it’s become very apparent to me that there has been some hardship and not very good working relationships with the Town of Princeton,” she said.
Guerster said her experiences with the VTS comprise – in part – her reasons for giving the sitting council a “poor” performance grade.
Guerster said her other priorities include supporting business growth and attracting investment to Princeton, as well as revisiting the Official Community Plan.
The much talked about indoor pool proposal is not really an election issue, she said.
“That seems to be a very hot topic of late. I have never stated I am against a pool or health and wellness center…The pool is really right now nothing. It’s a beautiful design and drawing and that’s where it stands right now because none of the financing has come through at this point.”
If the municipality receives the $22 million it is seeking from the provincial and federal governments Guerster said she believes a referendum on the project is needed.
“Council has a fiduciary responsibility to the people and needs to ensure that any big expenditures can be sustained. When large projects such as a pool are being proposed local government needs to consider the interests of the people. I believe referendums are helpful and useful on reaching what the majority of the [town] wants to see happen.”
A former financial institution employee, Guerster said she is able to commit herself full time to mayoral duties and has the strong leadership skills to support her bid.
“I am open, honest. I am very straightforward. I will say it like it is,” she said. “There is going to be a learning curve because this is new and I am willing to work through that with the public in Princeton…This is going to be very interesting – I’m sure challenging – but a very exciting year.”