Speaking after his campaign launch Aug. 11 at the Idylwylde Golf and Country Club, mayoral candidate Jeff Huska said he is getting used to answering one question: why run for the top job without getting experience as a city councillor first?
“You're not the first person to ask me that,” said Huska, who is one of nine people in the race to be the city's next mayor. “To be quite honest with you, I've never had any thought of ever being a councillor. I've always wanted to be the mayor.”
He said it's his best chance of initiating change “from the top down” following the Oct. 27 municipal election.
“Many of my friends are elderly, and many of my friends are young. I can relate to both groups. I don't want to wait until I'm 60 – not that that's a bad age – or 65 or 70. I want to do this when I have the best possible chance to offer the most.”
Huska is a married father with three children who has worked at the hospital since 1991. Currently he's a biomedical engineering technologist and his wife, Mary, also works at the hospital as director of ethics.
This is Huska's first foray into municipal politics, although he has sat on volunteer boards, including the Market Square Renewal Advisory Committee. Current Mayor Marianne Matichuk was also a political novice when she won in 2010, and she failed to get city council to support the agenda on which she campaigned. But Huska says he can overcome such obstacles.
“I've been working since I was 10 years old,” Huska said. “I'm a quick learner and a quick study. I want this job and I want to do it in the way it is meant to be done.”
One his biggest priorities, he said, is the health of lakes in Greater Sudbury. While the current city council has talked about what can be done, such as watershed studies, they have failed to act, Huska said.
“It's imperative to me that we have good, clean drinking water for everybody,” he said. “We receive our drinking water from our lakes. Ramsey Lake for example, to me, is the jewel of our city ... (But) if we can't preserve our lakes and what's happening to them, how can we preserve anything else?”
So with money tight, he wants councillors to agree to give up half of the $50,000 they get for their wards each year and use it instead for watershed studies. And the other half should go to where the need is greatest anywhere in the city, Huska said.
In addition, city councillors must give up control of spending decisions of the controversial Healthy Community Initiative funds, as they're formally known.
“Why not take those funds and put them to good use, as opposed to where some of those dollars have gone in the past?” he said. “And councillors shouldn't be dictating where that money goes.”
He also wants to see the HCI funds allocated to projects based on merit, rather than ward. So more than $50,000 could be spent in one ward in a year, if that's where the greatest need is, Huska said.
“I don't think there should be a limit on any one ward. That money is for the city and should be used by the city.”
He would also like to shelve a $23-million plan to straighten The Kingsway just past Brady Street. The city has been buying up property in the area with an eye on eventually moving ahead with the project.
“Those dollars could be better utilized in other areas,” Huska said.
More on Huska and his campaign for mayor can be found at his website, huskaformayor.com.