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Local government academic eyes seat on CBS council

Written by Mark Squibb, The Shoreline, originally published July 1, 2021.

Joshua Barrett said he noticed something troubling during the last municipal election in Conception Bay South.

"In 2017, during our last municipal election, we had a great slate of candidates," said Barrett. "But I didn't see anybody who looked like me around the table. I'm a young guy with a toddler, and I really believe it's important to have a diverse set of voices feeding into the decision making of the town."

So, the 29-year-old Chamberlains resident has decided to throw his name into the running for one of the four councillor-at-large seats in this year's municipal election.

"I think my ideas and my perspective might be different than someone twice my age," said Barrett.

Over the years, Barrett has worked in a variety of analytical and research positions with the provincial government. He is also currently completing his PhD in Rural Studies at the University of Guelph with a focus on public policy within rural local governments.

He also holds a Bachelor of Arts in Geography/Political Science and a Master of Arts in Geography, both from Memorial University.

He volunteers with Chamberlains Park Action Committee and Spruce Hills Community Church.

He and his wife Kelsey moved to Chamberlains five years ago.

"It was a very strategic move for us because CBS was a community that we could see ourselves growing and living in," said Barrett. "We felt that with everything CBS had to offer, we wanted to settle down her and start our lives."

While he applauds the current council, he said he sees room for improvement.

His three-pronged platform focuses on the community, environmental sustainability, and public engagement.

As part of his engagement platform, Barrett would like to see private meetings made public.

"You're not going to hear me tear any strips off the current members," said Barrett. "I think everybody did what they could with the information they had. I do think moving forward, we have an opportunity to better engage residents on decisions. We have a number of private council meetings, committee meetings, that we could make public. I think that is something I would like to see changed if I'm elected."

Barrett's sustainability platform focuses on the need for accessible public green spaces, climate change infrastructure investments, and the protection of the coastline.

"I think there's a need to consider incorporating climate change into our decisions," said Barrett. "Our community is a complete coastline, and we've seen damage to the T'railway in the past, and we need to ensure that these assets are protected."

Under the community platform points out the need for an indoor performance venue.

"I really want to see some strategic community investments," said Barrett. "I believe a gap in the community right now is an indoor performance place."

As to his age, Barrett hopes his youth won't deter voters.

"Age doesn't bring experience, experiences bring experiences," said Barrett. "And I've been fortunate to have a variety of leadership roles already in and outside the town and in my career thus far. I've managed multi year million-dollar budgets, and I have experience working with children, adults, and seniors. And I understand and respect the potential caution there, but I believe that I've been fortunate to have a variety of experiences to make me well rounded to serve on council."

Barrett officially announced his intention to run on June 25.

"The biggest asset in our community is our people. And I want to be that person that can represent their voice, to make strategic investments so we can live, work, and play in our community."

So far, former mayor Steve Tessier has announced his intention to run for the mayor's chair, while councillors Darrin Bent and Gerard Tilley have both said they are leaning towards running for the same position but have yet to make the final decision.

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