City Council Candidate: Duane Kamala-Thomas

1. What do you think our City has successfully done the past 5 years? Our City has successfully expanded its borders. The increase in population, both residential and industrial will sustain and propel itself into the future.

2. What do you think is our biggest challenge in the next 5? While we set course for Woodstock’s evolving identity over these next 5 crucial years, tending to the garden as a whole, and not only focusing on one or two main areas of concern (i.e. homelessness) will be a major challenge. We have to stop and catch up to our growth, without really being able to stop.

3. What are your biggest strengths as a candidate? Experience, Understanding and Vision are among my strengths. My experience of the city having been born and raised in Woodstock, my experience in the community having cofounded Why Not Us a nonprofit (on the business side; the legalities and bureaucracy involved), while on the community side focusing on mentorship through arts and athletics, advocating and volunteering on behalf of Woodstock youth for the past decade and beyond. Also, my experience having owned and operated a small business downtown for 6 years, accumulate to a straightening confidence I possess as a result of many experiences. In my lifetime, throughout all of those experiences, I’ve offered and continue to offer counsel tofriends, family, kids, and clients (by their own accounts). My ability to do so stems largely from a willingness to first listen. Listening leads to empathizing, and empathy is key to understanding. Once you understand someone else’s point of view, then, and only then can you truly apply solutions tailored to specific root problems, as opposed to “band-aiding” solutions for surface level issues.

4. ) What will make you more successful than others at addressing the issues our downtown faces? After first grasping what ‘all’ issues are, not only the apparent ones (i.e. lack of business, homeless activities, safety), my understanding that it will take a team effort, between the city, multiple agencies, as well as all tiers of government to solve the issues will go a long way. Having a business downtown means that I am fully invested in the renewal of our City’s core. My perspective as a diverse small business owner, BIA Board member, husband and father of two, serves as a constant reminder of the state of things downtown.  There will be some form of solutions put in place, that’s a given, but my interests lay in the follow up to those solutions. I’m concerned with the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th parts of any resolution. Speaking specifically to the renovations at Museum square; whatever the outcome may be, we need to plot for follow up events and activities that incorporate the city andbusinesses into the space. It can’t be thought that the job is done once it looks new and pretty. Beautification in any form is only one part of a solution.

5.  What would your 3 biggest priorities be as a councillor?

A. Learn the ropes as fast as possible, so as not to impede the process on progress as we exit the pandemic, when and where council was rather “quiet”.

B. Develop a set course for Woodstock’s future identity, that include heritage, culture, and concern for our youth and elders.

C. Represent myself, my family, my community, and my city with integrity, empathy and vision. 

6.  How important is affordable housing to you as a candidate and what do you believe the role of a City Councillor is at addressing it? Any concrete ideas? Affordable housing is absolute. I believe it is the largest part of the issue that is and/or will be plaguing a large percentage of citizens, which is affordable living in Woodstock. Not only the homeless, but also home owners, renters, business owners; all across the board, people are being impacted by the high cost of living in Woodstock which presumably won’t be getting cheaper anytime soon. So, I think it wise to scale back our perspective and consider various levels of affordability when discussing solutions.  As for concrete ideas, I lean towards the professionals and agencies who are closest to the situation. I lean towards them with open ears, because they should have the most tangible solutions. And it would be the duty of council to create an environment that encourages discourse between those agencies, city officials, and the community at large.

7. Do you see a role for collaboration between municipal council and school board trustees? If yes, in what capacity?If no, why not?

Collaboration is key. The only way to break barriers is through collaboration. The expansion of our city is not only apparent in the amount of new houses built, but also in the portables being erected in schoolyards. Working hand in hand has to be the only way to expand with utmost potential. Otherwise, we risk perpetuating the cycle of groups working with the best intentions, limited by limited resources.

8. Anything else you would like to tell me/my followers about you? We don’t need to reinvent the wheel, but we have to grease it, and then get it rolling in the right

direction. Thank you for your patience and consideration.