Elmira’s my home. I grew up here. Attended school here. Launched a business here. And I’m happy to be raising my family here.
You may know my dad. If you grew up in Woolwich or Wellesley he more than likely taught you French or German at EDSS. Mr Merlihan, as you might know him, spent 35 years teaching in Elmira. Pop, as I know him, spent five years across the pond with my mom before settling the family in Elmira. He taught with the nuns in France and Germany – those were good ol’ days. My mom stayed home with us while growing up – three boys, a handful indeed (but I was the favourite, sorry Greg and Joe). Mom took a rewarding job at Chateau Gardens in Elmira caring for the elderly – we think she just liked to work so she could socialize. They’re retired now, but Elmira is still their home.
For the last 18 years I have been The Observer’s Production Manager. I found my calling at The University of Waterloo’s weekly student newspaper, Imprint. Through my years there I learned a variety of skills in newspaper production, deadlines and all-nighters. The thing I remember most from that experience is the feeling of pride after a good week’s work. Our mantra, “You’re only as good as your last paper,” drove us to be better and not be lazy – the free pizza helped too. Newspaper work requires effort, teamwork and determination. Great people to work with, a winning attitude and an environment that promotes growth has been a combination that sees The Observer earning “Best in Class” awards year after year. I am very proud of our community newspaper. I am especially proud of all the people who have been part of The Observer family throughout our 18 years. Careers are started here just like mine did at The Imprint more than two decades ago.
I own the paper with my brother Joe, the Publisher. My years growing up in Elmira did little to prepare me for starting a business from scratch here. Elmira was different 19 years ago as we got set to launch the Observer. There was a big grey cloud hanging over it – it was an angry town. Some of that anger still boiled over from our water being poisoned in the late ’80s. Those were some scary times. I remember getting our drinking water from the fire department and portable shower units … but I digress. At that time, Woolwich council meetings were acrimonious at best. Pre-Mike Harris there were nine people at the council table and issues were hotly debated. By “debate,” I mean name-calling, taunts, grandstanding and full-page commentaries in the newspaper. Hello 1996. Enter The Woolwich Observer.
Fresh from university with zero real-world experience, we launched The Observer on Elmira Maple Syrup Festival day. It was the beginning of a journey that almost two decades later I can still look back on with pride. In those 20 years I married, have two fantastic boys, four nieces, five nephews, extended families, friends, colleagues, a dog … and a job that I still truly love. I am really lucky.
The job is one I take seriously. “Public watchdog” is the preferred terminology, but in this business we are aware of the less favourable “terms of endearment” bestowed upon us by the public. We have thick skin because we believe in our role serving the community. We’re not here to sensationalize things to “sell newspapers.” Rather, the bulk of the content celebrates the people of the townships, from the extraordinary volunteerism to scholastic achievements, from fundraising efforts for a variety of worthy causes to the achievements of local athletes. And, yes, we cover local politics. We’re not out to “get” anyone. It’s not personal.
We sell advertising space to finance the whole operation and costs our readers their time to be informed about the communities they live in. It’s a good arrangement.
So why do I want to enter politics? Good question. Over the years I have had access to public officials and politicians of all stripes and get to see the bigger picture of how decisions are reached – and it seems to have little to do with what’s best for our citizens. I have grown disillusioned with politicians; more specifically, to the contrast between what politicians say and what they actually do. I am not alone. I’ve seen staff who seem eager to create new jobs for themselves without much obvious benefit to the public. I’ve seen unwillingness to have a discussion about the issues in the previous two terms of council. That is absolutely mind-blowing to me. What are they afraid of?
As the Production Manager my duties pertain to the design and production of the Observer, our website ObserverXtra.com, and to producing advertising. I make sure that the paper you’re holding looks great, and the website you are reading works. My duties at the Observer are unlikely to clash with the performance expected of a Ward 1 councillor. My insight, background and history within the township are an invaluable resource that I wish to bring to the council table.
While change is great, and “moving forward” is supposed to mean “progress,” Woolwich needs to step back and take a deep breath. It is council’s job to scrutinize, challenge and just say “no” to an administration that has endless amount of wants and needs to spend public money. There have been too many times where councillors have failed to show up for the job they signed on for, and you’ve not been well served because of it.
With new subdivisions in the works and on the books, we are about to welcome another 2,000 families to our small-town lives. There will be some growing pains along the way, so it’s critical that we have the right people, asking the right questions, making sound decisions that benefit everyone.
I am ready to start that conversation.