From left, Byron Faretis, Bobbi Wright, Anne Butwell and Jeff Wheeldon are new additions to the Municipality of Brighton Council.
From a real estate agent with a passion for politics and social action, to the owner of a downtown small business catering to feathered friends, these are but two of four new additions to the Municipality of Brighton Council.
While the recent municipal election in Brighton became highly focused on who would land in the seats of mayor and deputy mayor, the results would also usher in a roster of new council members.
Mayor Brian Ostrander returns to council, along with Councillor Emily Rowley. Previous councillor Ron Anderson returns in the capacity of deputy mayor.
The new additions to council are Jeff Wheeldon, Bobbi Wright, Byron Faretis and Anne Butwell.
Before the group of seven gathers for the inaugural council meeting Nov. 15, the Brighton Independent briefly spoke with each new councillor about their motivation for seeking a seat and their priorities.
Wheeldon has been engaged in politics and social action at every level for almost a decade. He has run for office and contributed to policy discussions at the municipal, provincial, and federal levels.
“I wanted to bring a long-term, sustainable lens to political decision-making,” Wheeldon said about his decision to run for councillor.
“The incentives in politics are to think four years ahead and the reality is the choices we make today will determine what’s possible — not just tomorrow but for maybe the next 100 years.”
That mindset prompted him to create and chair Brighton’s sustainability advisory working committee.
He said the first order of business on council will be addressing the municipal staffing issues that Brighton has faced in recent times.
Butwell grew up in Toronto and participated in municipal politics from an early age as her father was a city councillor.
“My father is my role model in this, and I model my family life and my professional life on the values that he modelled for me, namely that you do the right thing no matter what the consequence, and only then can you leave this earth with a clear conscience,” Butwell said.
She worked for Ports Toronto as manager of marine operations and left in 2011 to stay at home with her son. Butwell moved to Brighton, took her real estate exams, and has spent time volunteering and fundraising since settling here.
“I decided to seek election to Brighton council because it is another way that I can help support my community. We are affected by the decisions of our local council in such impactful ways and they each affect our quality of life, and I want this town and its residents to feel as if their elected representatives are accessible to them so that they feel as if their voices are heard.”
Wright grew up in Brighton and returned to live here five years ago, purchasing The Birdhouse Nature Store. She moved her business from near Presqu’ile Provincial Park to the centre of town on Main Street amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. During this time, Wright navigated the provincial government’s evolving COVID-19 protocols for businesses and stepped up to become president of the Brighton Cramahe Chamber of Commerce.
She said she’s passionate about promoting Brighton, supporting local businesses, tourism, women in business, and local non-profit charities.
As for seeking a position on council, it was Wright’s family members who encouraged her to put her name on the ballot.
“I had (the idea) suggested to me and before I could even formulate my own opinion, my family resoundingly chimed in and said, ‘yes, you need to do this,’” Wright said.
“It became something I thought about for the next few days after that and (determined) this really would be a great way to give back further to Brighton after coming back five years ago and being so wonderfully embraced by the community.”
Wright said she knows she’s “a newbie” on council and her first priorities will be listening and learning.
Byron Faretis, now retired, worked in the food and beverage industry for 25 years and then started and ran his own graphics business for 18 years.
Faretis said he decided to run for council because he loves Brighton and “I have an interest in how it’s moving forward.
“I thought I should maybe participate in that process, with a view to kind of bringing on the social infrastructure.” Faretis specifically means improving access to healthcare – family physicians in particular.
“Based on all of the people I’ve talked to, there’s a huge need for access to doctors in Brighton. I have heard time and time again about people having to travel great distances,” he said.
“Although we have made some inroads here with a couple of doctors, it’s clearly not enough to meet the needs of the growing population.”
Faretis said it would also benefit Brighton residents to have a lab for bloodwork here in the municipality. He has ideas he hopes to bring to council on “kind of a whole scale health infrastructure.”
Story Behind the Story: The Brighton Independent spoke with the new members of Brighton council about their motivation for seeking a seat and issues that are top of mind.