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CANDIDATE FORUM: Sarnia city council candidates make their pitch

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The Journal asked the 28 men and women running for Sarnia council to tell us why they should be elected. Here, starting today, are their (largely) unedited answers. Eight will be elected: four in the city only and four to also serve on Lambton County council. We begin with city-only candidates.

Peter Athanasopoulos 

Athanasopoulos, Peter_1

Peter Athanasopoulos has been a Sarnia resident for 38 years. He and his wife Sue have proudly raised 7 children and 3 grandchildren together. He is a business owner, a history enthusiast, and an entrepreneur.

He understands the value of community involvement, and is a three-time President of the Greek Orthodox Community of Sarnia.

His vision and perseverance ensured the acquisition of the Greek Community’s current facility on Murphy Road, which is widely known as the home of Sarnia Greekfest, one of Sarnia’s largest festivals. Peter served on the Greekfest Organizing Committee its first 7 years.

He was also appointed by the Arch Bishop of Canada to assist with Committee Affairs in the Toronto Archdiocese of the Orthodox Church.

Peter aims to keep the young generations in Sarnia by increasing Lambton College’s affiliation with local small businesses and support programs where they work together to innovate and create jobs.

He also wishes to promote tourism in by inviting private businesses to develop Sarnia’s beautiful waterfront.

His desire for change comes from a passion to create opportunity for children to grow and thrive in a strong, family-based community.

It’s time for change: New faces and new ideas. Thank you for your support!

Peter Athanasopoulos for City Council, 2014


J.D. Booth

J. D. Booth

As a journalist I’ve learned to ask tough questions and seek the answers that will help to make Sarnia a better place to be, not only today but for succeeding generations.

Because finances are at the heart of what the City is able to do, I support a policy of fiscal fitness that will see us become debt free. I will vote as though every dollar was coming out of my own pocket.

We should be looking for ways to ultimately lower, not raise taxes. I will support initiatives such as the private proposal to purchase and redevelop the former Sarnia General Hospital facility. I am a strategic thinker who is able to bring a sense of balance to issues that will impact the City on both the short term and long term.

And finally, I will act on issues with compassion, supporting rather than opposing moves like that of a local church that wanted to provide some six homeless men with a warm place to sleep. We have spent tens of thousands of our dollars fighting through legal channels an issue that ought to have been solved using our hearts, an issue that needs to come to an end.


Terry Burrell 

Terry Burrell

As Council members we have to be careful how we spend your money.

As a Chartered Accountant I feel that I provide good input at budget time and I help Council provide a good level of services, keep taxes reasonable and pay down our debt.

But the City is not just numbers.

We have over 1,000 acres of parkland, a beautiful river and spectacular lakefront.

The City provides policing, fire protection, transit service and sports facilities. We collect your garbage and your recycling. We maintain miles and miles of roadways, water lines and sewer lines.

But let’s look to the future. There are some exciting environmental improvements being made regarding the St Clair River and I want to help move them along as Vice-Chair of the St Clair Region Conservation Authority, as Vice-Chair of the Bi-National Public Advisory Council and as Treasurer of Friends of the St Clair River.

There also seems to be some interesting economic developments on the horizon.

I have served the City of Sarnia as Alderman/Councillor for 20 years. Thank you.

And I respectfully ask that you re-elect me, Terry Burrell, to Sarnia City Council.


Salena Clarkson

Salena Clarkson

Hello. I am a 45-year-old Sarnia native who has been in customer service for 30 years.  It has been my PLEASURE to serve Sarnians over the years in many ways … be it their bank teller, hairdresser, waitress, movie ticket girl, or for the last 18 years, Manager at Adult Connection.

I have always enjoyed listening to people and helping serve their needs. I am running for council as it has become painfully aware to me that customer service is a lost art and people are feeling invisible and completely dismissible.

I want to really listen to people and bring their needs and concerns to light. I want to show people that someone will care about their opinion and they CAN make a difference.

I will strive to improve Sarnia and help industry grow, as I have two small children and I would love to retire here surrounded by my family (moving at 60-years-old is too much work!!!).

So let’s give the younger generation a reason to come to Sarnia or stay in Sarnia.

After all, if nothing changes, nothing changes.

Positively, Salena

David Ghobril

Dave Ghobril

I am an ardent investor. Continual investment in the future brings astounding returns.

Quality of life? City planners created a beautiful livability plan for things like biking, walking and green spaces.

Debt? A plan to erase the deficit is underway – good because no one strives to be MORE in debt.

That leaves Jobs. An energy boom is silently underway. A process called fracking is releasing billions of barrels of previously unreachable oil. America surpassed Iraq and is now number two oil producer in the world after Saudi Arabia. Alberta oil sands hold even more oil. This speaks well for Sarnia with our expertise, newly owned harbor and infrastructure.

I would like to focus on ensuring we maximize our part of that boom. A heavy equipment corridor to get manufactured components to Alberta and a bitumen upgrader to get petroleum feed stocks here are two priorities.

Secondly, Bayside needs a direction for downtown to grow. We need to encourage the merchants in the core to invest in the core. Land has to be in the hands of the merchants, keeping the wealth of downtown in families here.

We bought the building where the Ice Creamery is across from Centennial Park, a decision we have never regretted.

James Grant

James Grant

As General Manager of the Lambton College Student Administrative Council, I oversee the day-to-day operations of their business, and my vision for the city stems largely from my experiences in this role.

I believe that Sarnia needs to continue to move forward with a focus on fiscal responsibility. In order for us to keep our community safe, provide key infrastructure that supports and attracts businesses and keeps jobs, while also paying down our city’s debt, the taxpayer dollar needs to be handled in a way that makes sense. I learned fiscal responsibility and developed financial experience right here in this community.

The City of Sarnia will always benefit from the application of business-like principles. If you keep the City operating within its means, it’s ability to grow and provide the services that we all need will be there today, tomorrow and into the future.

I will help to build a budget that reflects the best practices about resource allocation in the short and long term. I will ensure that my views are informed, and represent the interests of all citizens while using my background to do so with compassion and vision.

Mike Kelch

Kelch, Mike

In the uncertain times we face, I believe Sarnia must continue to reduce its debt and control its operating costs, above all else. Sarnia will be debt-free within 5 years IF council sticks to the plan that I helped implement in 2001. That will free up millions of dollars for tax relief, rebuilding of reserves and infrastructure renewal. It secures our future.

Those two priorities…debt reduction and cost control…guide my decisions as a city councillor.

The past term has been unusually challenging, to be sure. Yet, there have ALWAYS been challenges. I’ll continue to face them head-on; making Centennial Park better-than-ever, establishing a new, affordable arena strategy, and moving forward with revitalizing the old hospital.

And, we must maintain quality city services. At affordable levels.

I’ll continue to bring a common-sense, focused, business-like approach to the operation and governance of the city.

I invite voters to my website … www.mikekelch.com … for more information.

Shawn McKnight

Shawn McKnight

I have been working to effect change in Sarnia since moving back to town about 12 years ago; working with like minded individuals to establish community building events like Artwalk and First Friday. Most of my work in recent years has been land based (ecological protection / naturalization).

My focus is not only on the environment; diversifying the economy, youth retention and supporting Sarnia’s creative community are also very important to me. I believe it is crucial for Sarnia to foster its creative community as it helps other areas thrive. We are losing many of our young adults. Building upon our existing creative community will help keep those youth in Sarnia as well as retain those who’ve moved to Sarnia for work.

I look at all issues with a global perspective, understanding that true change takes place at the community level and that all areas are unique, requiring solutions and plans that are specific to a particular place. Born and raised in Sarnia, and having been involved in a number of non-profit groups, boards and municipal committees over the years, I am very familiar with the community and in a good position to be an effective member of city council.

Matt Mitro


I’m a Sarnia Council Candidate because I believe in our City!  My family moved here in the 1970’s and re-established our business Up-Rite Door.  Since then, despite some successes, Sarnia has lost more than 20,000 people and our economy has contracted sharply.

Many of our best and brightest residents and our children have moved away to find good stable jobs. As a decade long volunteer member of a City Development committee, and being on Chamber of Commerce Committees for more than 30 years, I have followed City Budgets and Policy. I have watched spending grow but government hasn’t improved enough in efficiency and effectiveness.

It’s time to change local government to be more welcoming and easy to deal with for Sarnians and to better promote us to potential residents and business investors. We need fewer studies and more action, a helpful “can do” attitude.

In short, it’s time for simplification, innovation and a growth agenda. I will use smart, common sense decision making to accomplish these goals.

Like all of you, I love our City and I want to use my varied experience and extensive knowledge to make it better!

I Humbly Ask for Your Vote on October 27th 2014.







































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