Anyone out there - especially those of you who live in Ward 1 - recognize this face?
This is Sarah Thompson, one of the frontrunners in Toronto's mayoral race.
before Ms. Thompson threw her hat into the Toronto ring, she was a
Hamilton gal who ran for Ward 1 Alderman in 1997. The then-29-year-old
was inspired to run for council after an attempt to turn the ground floor of her Aberdeen Avenue home into a bookstore got hung up in City Hall red tape.
Thompson - who went by Sarah Whatmough back then - lost to Mary Kiss and Marvin Caplan (there were two alderman per ward at that time). However, she's decided to give politics a second round in the Big Smoke.
I'll leave you with a column written by Andrew Dreschel. Any of you remember Sarah Thompson?
Newcomers restore faith in elections
It happens simultaneously. The lawn signs start going up and the candidates start knocking on your door. It's election time in the city.
I live in Ward 1.
A couple of times I've caught glimpses of incumbent Mary Kiss making the rounds, but the first campaign sign that appeared in my southwest neighbourhood and the first face on my own doorstep belonged to challenger Sarah Whatmough.
Whatmough, 29, is a personable young woman who's running for council because, frankly, she believes she can do a good job.
She's confident in her managerial abilities, her leadership and motivational skills, and she believes passionately in basing all her decisions on ethical grounds.
"My father always told me when you don't know what to do about something, do what's ethical."
Some might call that naive. I call it refreshing.
There's nothing like talking to enthusiastic newcomers to restore your faltering faith in municipal politics. When the challenger is credible, it can give you that same pulse of hope you feel when the calendar changes and a new year begins.
Because they're untried, newcomers are unsullied by the rivalries and personality conflicts, the backroom machinations and manoeuvrings that all too often become second nature among city hall careerists.
True, if elected, they too may fall prey to the pitfalls and games of elected office and their sparkle, like the new year's, may eventually fade.
But at least they offer voters the choice of a fresh face and voice. It's about the only advantage they do have.
Most are facing an uphill fight.
It's difficult to unseat an incumbent because of the built-in advantage of name recognition, an important factor given that voter turnout in city elections hovers around a dismal 36 per cent. When you consider that an aldermanic candidate needs an estimated $10,000 to run a strong campaign, the task becomes that much harder.
Candidates need the money for signs, leaflets, renting a campaign headquarters, running in phone lines. Because incumbents have an established political base, their greater resources for drumming up cash and volunteers give them an immense edge.
Whatmough, like other unknowns, has little choice but to campaign on the cheap.
She's already spent about $2,700 on signs and leaflets. The money has come from her own savings and donations from family and friends. She figures she'll need at least another $1,000 before the election's over.
For headquarters, she's using her Aberdeen Avenue home. You can't miss it. It's the one plastered with black and white campaign signs. Why black and white? Colour costs more.
She has 10 full-time volunteers working for her. She's hoping to eventually field 15 to 20.
Right now, she's one of four candidates in Ward 1 (deadline for registrations in all wards is Oct. 10).
She's up against Kiss, a member of council for 15 years, and Marvin Caplan, who won his seat in 1994 after Terry Cooke stepped aside to run for regional chair.
The third contender is Cam Nolan, executive director of the Hamilton Construction Association, who finished third in a field of eight in the 1994 election.
All three of them are experienced community networkers.
Whatmough's record is relatively weak as far as community and committee work goes. She participated in official plan amendment meetings and is a former secretary of the Kirkendall Neighbourhood Association. But her business career may carry weight with voters concerned about city hall management.
She's a doer who loves challenges.
Whatmough started pumping gas when she was 15. By the time she was 18, she was operating a station for Texaco. She was 20 when she switched to Sunoco: they offered her two sites and she jumped at the opportunity.
Whatmough soon established a reputation for improving volume and service. At 25, she was managing five stations. She's currently running two in the Hamilton area and has won the top Sunoco dealer award in Ontario two years running.
She's also a mature student at Mac and hopes to open a bookstore and lending library in her home, a plan that's raised some controversy among neighbours opposed to a business operating in a residential area.
Whatmough knows she's an underdog but like all newcomers, she's dreaming the dream. "I think I have a chance if I can get out to enough people so they can meet me, " she says.
It's a good thing she likes challenges. This may be the biggest of her life.