Bring back the small-town feeling
BY REBECCA LOTT
Special to the VOICE
Amber Cuthbertson and her husband have had a standing breakfast date at Flyer’s Restaurant in Dunnville every Saturday morning for the past five years. But if elected, Cuthbertson is ready to trade in her weekly breakfast for ribbon cuttings and community events as a councillor in Ward 2.
Cuthbertson, 42, is not afraid of a challenge. She is a licensed architectural technologist. She is also a former ballerina and a seasoned rower. She began rowing at the age of 20. She was on Canada’s National Team quad at the 2006 World Championships and she rowed in the lightweight doubles at the 2007 Pan American Games. She won the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta four times. Now retired from competitive sport, Cuthbertson still trains in the winter and rows recreationally in nice weather.
Cuthbertson grew up on a farm in Harrowsmith, Ontario. She played every sport in school. Rowing allowed her to see the world. She chose to settle in Fonthill seven years ago because she wanted to live in a community that was similar to the one she grew up in. In Fonthill she found an old house and a small town.
“Through and through I’m rural at heart,” she says.
She and her husband, Dale Smith, enjoy renovating their century home. She likes knitting, baking, making yogurt and preserves. An avid gardener, she volunteers on the executive board of the Pelham Garden Club and is a member of the District 9 Horticultural Society. She sat on the Town Beautification Committee. She coaches and volunteers in the rowing community.
Cuthbertson considers herself “an earthy hometown kind of girl, who has life experience and practical knowledge” and she plans to take that to council.
She is familiar with the planning, zoning, procurement and tendering process. However, she doesn’t like what she has seen at the Town of Pelham with regards to planning, and this is what prompted her to run for council. Cuthbertson feels that the people of Pelham were misled by the current council.
“It had to do with loss of confidence with the current council,” she says. “As soon as you smell smoke you start looking for fire. There’s a lack of confidence that they’re acting in the best interest of the public. We have to address the public’s confidence and perception of council. The community centre was sold to us as if it would not burden the taxpayer. We were told it would be fully funded.”
Cuthbertson believes in maintaining a healthy quality of life. Her platform is to return that small town lifestyle and mentality to Pelham for those who have always lived here and for those who have chosen to make it their home. She says she would like to maintain that sense of community by clearing up where the Town is sitting fiscally, and by holding off on adding any more assets for now.
“We need to decide who we are, what we stand for and what we want to be known for,” she says. “It’s hard to know where we are going when we don’t know where we are at with regards to finances and planning.”
Cuthbertson is passionate about strengthening the community experience by working with traffic, signage, sidewalks, landscaping and development. She envisions a community where residents walk and ride bikes.
“I think it’s a benefit to everybody if you get people out of their houses and onto the sidewalk. We see ourselves in a small town. Home is the boundaries of Pelham, not just our driveway.”
Cuthbertson also aims to enrich and support a growing senior population. Her plan is to tailor programming at the new community centre so seniors can participate in activities. She also thinks not everything needs to be on the internet because not everyone has access to it.
“We are going to have to make every effort,” she says. “We’re going to have to get creative to minimize the financial burden on the taxpayers and to maximize the use of the community for all residents.”
Cuthbertson knows the task of improving the Town won’t be easy, but she asserts she has the staying power.
“I think I have something to offer and I’m willing to offer it. I think the people leaving urban centres are looking for similar things that current residents value, and that is the small town experience.”