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A younger face for council?

By Samantha Reed [1]

BELLEVILLE – City council needs some fresh blood, Devon Dings [2] says.

Dings, who is vying for a seat on council in the Oct. 27 municipal election, says he believes a younger presence would complement the more experienced councillors.

Those veteran councillors “are tenured, they’ve been in there a little bit, and I think some strapping young lad would definitely keep them on their toes,” said the 25-year-old Belleville resident.

Dings is not the only young candidate who says council could use a younger perspective.

Council candidate Tyler Allsopp [3], 21, said,“I think certainly the idea of having a demographically balanced council has been missing – just someone who can represent young people (but also) as a home and business owner … understands the concerns of all the people in this city.”

This year’s election has no shortage of younger perspectives, with four candidates under the age of 25 running for council. In addition to Allsopp and Dings, Lonnie M.D. Herrington [4], 18, and Brandon Charles Ross [5], 21, are competing for a spot on Belleville council. It’s a sharp contrast to the 2010 municipal election, when no one 25 or under ran.

Dings, Herrington, Allsopp and Ross are all running in Ward 1 (Belleville), along with 18 other contenders.

But why the sudden interest in municipal politics among young candidates? It could be the number of veteran councillors not running for council this term.

“We have someone like (two-term councillor) Tom Lafferty, who is stepping down, and (Mayor Neil) Ellis, who is stepping away to bigger, broader things,” Dings said. “I feel that everyone else thinks that this is the opportunity to get their foot in the door.”

After two terms as mayor, Ellis announced that he will seek the federal Liberal nomination for the Bay of Quinte riding. Only four councillors from last term are running for re-election. The names of Lafferty and Jodie Jenkins are missing from the ballot, while councillors Pat Culhane and Taso Christopher are running for mayor.

Allsopp agreed with Dings: “I think that there’s a couple extra spots this year than there are typically in elections in this area. There’s not a lot of incumbents that are re-running,” he said.

Another reason for the number of young candidates could just be an interest in municipal politics.

“You start going to the debates and everything and hearing all of the topics covered and I just kind of got more and more interested in it,” Herrington said.

But whatever the reason for running, Harrington, Dings and Allsopp – Ross was not available for an interview – all said that they do not want to be defined only as advocates for youth in Belleville, but also as young political candidates who can deal with a range of Belleville’s issues.

“I think that my role can be certainly to represent the youth and be a real champion to the youth voice on council,” Allsopp said. “But I don’t think that I necessarily have to limit the kind of range of issues I’ll be able to deal with at council.”