Twenty-three-year-old Dan Turner officially filed his nomination papers for lord mayor Thursday morning.
The nearly lifelong local surprised many residents in June when he announced his plan to seek the position of lord mayor at such a young age, with no experience in a council room — though having lived in Niagara most of his life, Turner feels he’s got what it takes.
He has a lot of ideas of about change, he said, including increasing tourism revenues to lower taxes, finding out how the municipality can keep control of things that affect residents from the Region, and ensuring potential provincial funding changes don’t affect public facilities like libraries.
He said he thinks now that he’s officially in the running, people will be open to hearing his ideas.
“Most people have been surprised to see someone as young as me going around and saying I think we need some change … I’m curious to see if there’s been any change in attitudes with me being officially on the ballot now.”
Turner said he’s been studying hard over the past few months to prepare for the election and position.
Part of that process, he said, has been “a lot of reading,” digging through documents like the Municipal Elections Act and the Ontario Municipal Act, as well as going door-to-door to find out what residents care about.
He said so far people have reacted well to him.
“Overwhelmingly I’ve had a lot of positivity. I’ve had a lot of people say that we need fresh blood in Niagara-on-the-Lake and it’s about time that we had some change. A lot of people are glad to see a young local being able to take a stand to advance some change, and to go out there and actually try to make the change.”
“With a little more recognition of this actually being officially — and maybe with people taking me a little bit more seriously — it’s going to be interesting to see how people react to it.”
He said he thinks NOTL needs a young, passionate, local to come in and take the reigns.
“I’ve heard the terms young blood and fresh blood over and over,” he said.
Another reason Turner is running, he said, is to fulfil a dream of sorts, one that began the first time he voted when he was 18.
Since then he's taken courses in school which have given him experience he feels is valuable to bring to the table, he said, pointing to a first-class honours degree in economics from Brock University and time spent working with Statistics Canada and the Niagara Region.
That experience, he believes, have taught him how to adapt quickly and problem-solve.
It’s important to focus on both the big things and the little ones, he said, telling a story from when he worked at Mercedes-Benz Financial Services Canada. During his time there, when a document needed a signature, instead of printing it off, scanning it and sending it back, he would add an electronic signatures and save paper. Although he wasn’t technically supposed to, he admits, after running it by the boss, the entire department started doing it, which resulted in significant savings on printing costs.
It’s that type of ingenuity Turner hopes to bring to town council, he said.
With regards to the position of lord mayor, he said he’s done his homework.
“You’re never going to be able to know every little bit going into it, and there’s always going to be something to learn every day when it comes to talking to people and figuring out what’s important.”
He said so far from visiting residents at their homes he’s learned one of the most concerning issues for a lot of people, especially in Virgil and the Homestead area, is the possibility of a new medical centre being built on Niagara Stone Road.
Contender for the position of lord mayor Betty Disero — who has spent four years on NOTL town council and brings more than two decades of experience in the political world — said she thinks Turner would be better off to run for a position on council, where he “might stand a chance,” in the election.
Turner said he's not discouraged by anyone who thinks he’s too young.
He wants to “bring change” to the town, he said.
“I think I’m the person who might be able to do it.”
As far as NOTL chief administrative officer Holly Dowd can recall, Turner is the youngest to run for the position in the history of the town, though there is no recorded list of candidate ages. If Turner wins, he would be the sixth-youngest mayor to be elected in Canada, according to information from Wikipedia.