My name is Kathleen Thorne Rochon, and I would like to be your next mayor.
If you had told me six months ago that I would be sitting here writing my biography as a candidate for Mayor of West Nipissing, I wouldn’t have believed you. I was surprised when early in the year, I started receiving calls from members of our community, some of whom I hardly knew, encouraging me to consider putting my name in for this challenging role. I talked to family, friends, neighbours, and colleagues to consider this commitment very carefully. And I believe that I am the right person to take on this vital role.
My entire career has orbited, in one way or another, around the political sphere. From my early days working on high-profile federal and provincial leadership campaigns to developing and implementing planning and logistics for the sizeable Niagara Wine Festival, my work often involved building and nurturing relationships with community and government representatives.
In my work at the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce, one of the largest chambers in Ontario with over 1000 member businesses, I was responsible for developing and implementing events and programs that built networks and enhanced community capacity. Additionally, as an organization, one of our most important mandates was to advocate for municipal, regional, and provincial government policies. It gave me a deep appreciation for the impact various levels of government have on the success of communities and how the voices of citizens and organizations can help inform policy decisions.
When I left the Chamber for a position with the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade in Toronto, I finally got to see, from the inside, how the work of government actually gets done – not the politics, but the actual work and how policy translates into action.
During my time in Niagara, I was fortunate to have not one but two great mentors who recognized my potential and helped shape my professional and personal growth. The most important thing I learned from them is that it takes nothing away from one’s success to help others succeed.
One of those mentors would go on to stand with me as matron of honour at my wedding 15 years later. The other is just finishing his second term as the Mayor of the City of St. Catharines.
But that wasn’t the only lucky break I got while in Niagara. It was where I met my husband, a man born and raised in Sturgeon Falls, but at that time, living and working in Niagara. In 2007, on a weekend visit to family, we came across a property here and immediately fell in love with it. We had no idea that when we left to travel to West Nipissing that weekend, we would find our forever home, right here in Francois’ hometown.
We moved to West Nipissing in 2009. I was eager to find ways to get involved in our community. In 2010 I was appointed to the West Nipissing Economic Development Advisory Committee and the Advisory Committee for the Sturgeon River House Museum.
I started my business here in 2012. I joined and became a board member of the West Nipissing Chamber of Commerce. The following year, I was named President. During my time with the Chamber of Commerce, we launched the first “Feast on the Farm” event, developed a comprehensive online business directory, introduced the “Business After Hours” networking event, and hosted the Business Excellence Awards to celebrate our local business heroes.
Around this time, I began to pay attention to the workings of the West Nipissing Municipal government. I would watch council meetings and take note of the various organizations and individuals that contributed to building our community. And when I disagreed with a decision or witnessed behaviour that I felt was counterproductive, I would speak out. I would email members of council or write to the newspaper to make our elected officials accountable for their decisions and responsible for their actions. I am passionate about good governance and policy. I believe that the vision I bring to those issues is what we, as a community, need right now.
We all know that we are fortunate to live in such a beautiful part of Ontario. We know our town and its unique communities hold great potential and possibility. We know that we have family, friends and neighbours in all corners of the municipality that want to find ways to contribute to our growth, progress and success. All we need to do is create a climate that inspires people to share their ideas, harness their energy and work as a team to build our future.
The vision I share with you is a movement to bring a fresh perspective on municipal leadership based on four pillars: Common Sense, Collaboration, Facilitation and Fairness. I believe we can build our community by creating an environment where council, municipal staff and citizens are encouraged and motivated to find ways to work together, develop synergies and get things done.