OrilliaMatters will profile all the candidates seeking election in the Oct. 24 municipal election. Prospective candidates have until Aug. 19 to submit their nomination papers.
Local business manager and former construction professional Tyson Renshaw is making a bid for a position on city council this fall.
The 37-year-old Ward 4 hopeful’s platform is simple – he hopes to bridge a gap he sees between Orillia’s citizens and their elected representatives.
“I just feel like council seems a little bit disconnected from the citizens, so I'd really like to, as much as I can, be a voice for the city,” Renshaw told OrilliaMatters. “I want to be an in-person councillor, where you come and talk to me.”
He's already started.
“I have a notebook, and every person who has an issue … I've written it down in my book, and I want to talk to everybody in my ward as much as I can,” he said. “I just want to be able to be a liaison between the citizens and the city.”
Renshaw has spent 30 of his 37 years living in Orillia’s fourth ward, although his work in the trades has taken him around North America. While inexperienced politically, he’s worked in construction management, worked on large-scale solar farms, has run his own construction company, and he has also worked building houses.
“I'm not a politician at all. I'm an honest, hardworking guy, and I think that's what council needs, is somebody who's just there,” Renshaw told OrilliaMatters.
“I want to speak to the people and actually communicate with them to figure out what they want. I think that I’m just a good person to be able to do that, to be able to relay the message from the people into the city.”
Renshaw said his background in the trades will prove useful to council.
“I've dealt with … construction, and dealt with the roads; I've dealt with renewable energy, and I've dealt with running my own construction projects, so I have a pretty good idea of construction basics, which I think would go a long way, having somebody a little bit more familiar than just office work on council," he explained.
“I come from a wide range of businesses. When I worked in construction before, I managed multimillion dollar MTO projects and solar projects,” he said. “My problem solving skills, and my work experience, I think it's going to go a long way with council.”
Since November 2020, Renshaw has been running Coco’s Cookies with his fiancee, which affords him the time to pursue a position on council – something he said he’s been interested in for years.
“I wanted to run for council forever, but working those jobs … I had worked all over North America, and worked long hours, and I was always on call, so I could never make any commitments outside of work,” he said. “I'm finally able to commit to this city like I have wanted to for years.”
Should he be elected this fall, one idea that Renshaw has is to host regular meetings with citizens to address their concerns.
"I would love to have in-person (meetings), whether it's monthly, you know, meets down at the park – I'll sit on a bench and I'll post an event, and people can come down and meet with me and talk to me face to face,” he said.
“I'd love to have a forum like that where if people are angry, they can come talk to me face to face – typing isn't going to solve anything.”
Renshaw said two of the biggest issues he wants to address are the ongoing housing and opioid crises.
“Everybody's struggling to pay rent. Apartments that I've had in the city for $800, not that long ago – I'm not that old – are over $2,000 now. That's an incredible hike," he said.
“I'd love to see more affordable housing for people, and some sort of resolution for the opioid crisis,” Renshaw said. “I know multiple people who've passed away due to the opioid crisis, and some were friends of mine … and I think that with the housing crisis, and poverty, everything goes hand in hand. I want to bring this back to the community … we're a community, and we're supposed to be looking after each other.”
With community in mind, Renshaw hopes to bring some positivity back to the city after experiencing the pandemic.
"I think the whole pandemic has posed a big divide between our whole community; I think we've lost a large sense of community," he said.
“I think everybody's so divided right now, with everything that happened with the pandemic and everything politically happening over the past few years,” he said. “You can't keep everyone happy, but I'd like to keep as many people happy as I can, and that's my biggest thing … as silly as it might sound.”
Pat Hehn and Tim Lauer are the current Ward 4 councillors. Hehn has announced she will not seek another term, and Renshaw is the only candidate currently officially listed as a candidate in the the ward.