Justin Jones is one of 12 candidates vying for six seats on Fort St. John city council, and one of six new faces looking to upset an incumbent councillor.
Jones is a sales rep with United Rentals and fits the average demographic of the city: 28, and with a young family that recently moved to town. He's looking to join council to improve the quality of life for young families like his, from making sure arts and recreation is inclusive to all, attracting more major events, and bringing in more businesses to ensure more money is spent in the city.
Alaska Highway News has sent out a questionnaire to all candidates in this year's election, asking them about their experience and priorities, what they think the city should be spending more or less money on, the city's greatest achievements and failures over the last four years, and the biggest challenge in the next four.
Responses are being published as they are received. The answers below have been edited for spelling and grammar only.
Name: Justin Jones
Neighbourhood: C.M. Finch area
Occupation: Sales representative for United Rentals
1. Why did you decide to run for council?
I made the decision to run for council because I feel that we need a change on council to allow for new ideas. I have had the opportunity to live in three different cities of various sizes over the past 10 years, but Fort St. John is a place that I can call home. Like myself, many individuals and families in this community have moved here from other regions of Canada, and even the world. I feel that there is a lack of representation for many of us in the community that have a similar background.
2. What experience and skills would you bring to council?
I have had the fortune to live in multiple cities before landing in Fort St. John, and I think this gives me a unique perspective on how Fort St. John compares. The city has built a great foundation on which it can continue to grow, and I know if I had a seat on council I would bring forward ideas that can push Fort St. John to reach its best potential.
3. What would be your top three priorities if elected, and why?
Improving the quality of life – Fort St. John is a great place to live, but a lot of people spend most of their time working. The city needs to focus its energy on making it a city that people of all ages will want to continue to live in. I believe we need more arts and recreation that is inclusive to people of all ages, and this will also attract people to want to move to and stay in Fort St. John.
Economic Development – Attracting new businesses will also attract new people to our community. We need to let investors know that Fort St. John is a viable place to start a business, and that there is a huge demand for shopping/leisure activities.
Attraction of more events to our city that would be another source of revenue. I am happy to see that we will be hosting the 2020 Winter Games, and it would be great to push to host other events similar to this. This will help make Fort St. John a more desirable place.
4. What programs or services should the city spend more on?
Marketing the city to outside investors and future residents, also committing to the parks and recreation plan. Everyone needs something to wind down after a hard week of work, or coming off of shift, and having programs for members of the community of all ages is important. This will also help attract new members to the community.
5. What programs or services should the city spend less on?
It's hard to cut certain programs, but they can work to become more efficient. The city is essentially a large corporation with budgets and expenses. We need to make sure the city is operating as efficiently as possible to cut costs where it can, and allow those funds to be used in a better way.
6. Would you support raising taxes to support council priorities?
If it was something that the benefited the majority of the city, and the community was pushing for it knowing it would increase taxes, then my answer would be yes; otherwise, I pay taxes just like everyone else, and I would prefer to save my money.
7. What should the city do to attract new industry and business?
We need to market Fort St. John for what it is: a young, hardworking community, with an abundance of families. We are well below the national average for age, yet one of the highest for average household income. This money is going to be spent, and we need to make sure it is done so in Fort St. John. If we do not have what the people of Fort St. John desire, they will spend their money somewhere else. We need to show businesses that Fort St. John will be a great place for them to start and operate a business.
8. What should the city do to stimulate downtown investment?
First of all, the downtown core needs a facelift. Having spent time in cities that have areas older than the country itself, they merge the old with the new, which creates a very appealing place to visit and shop. In my opinion, the downtown core does not look like it left the 1980s, and we need to welcome it to 2018.
9. What's has been the city's greatest achievement over the last four years?
The signing of the Peace River Agreement. It's important that we have the infrastructure to support the influx of personnel that comes to the region for work. The signing of this agreement has given us the funds available to put towards capital and operating budgets. I do hope that when it is reviewed in 2023 we work towards gaining more, as there will be an increase of activity with the LNG Canada announcement.
10. What's has been the city's greatest failure over the last four years?
The Condill and dog park are two things that I see as failures.
The Condill had major cost overruns, which were unfortunate, and we now have a $2.2-million dollar empty lot, which only adds to all the other vacant lots in the city.
The dog park I believe is a failure. I am happy we are getting a new and larger dog park, but I do not think all the additional amenities are needed. All the dog parks I have gone to in larger cities are an open field, no special parking, no dog fountains, no walking trails, etc. It could have been a fairly cheap addition to the city, but now the cost has exceeded what they originally budgeted for.
11. What's the biggest opportunity facing the city over the next four years?
LNG development, it will bring a lot of activity into our region, and with this we will see an increase of businesses operating here. This will create new jobs, bring new people to our city, and hopefully bring new investment into our retail sector to have more options for our residents.
12. What's the toughest challenge facing the city over the next four years?
LNG development, it will put a lot of stress on our city's resources. Our roads will get busier, our residential rentals will get tighter, and our shops will get busier. As a city, we need to make sure we are ready for the impact it will have on our region.
Finish this sentence: When I'm not deep in thought about city politics and civic issues, I'm…
... spending time with my family, which typically consists of relaxing with my wife Sarah, building puzzles with my three-year-old son Jackson, and trying to get my six-month old daughter Sadie to say Dada.
What's the last book you read?
1001 Days That Shaped the World – Peter Furtado
What's the last movie you watched?
Most likely a Marvel or superhero movie with Jackson.
The best thing about Fort St. John that people don’t know about is…
The people, this has been one of the friendliest communities I have had the pleasure to live in.
If you weren't living in Fort St. John, where would you be?
Somewhere in England, the history is amazing, and it is easy to travel to Europe for a quick getaway.
Want to know more about Justin Jones? He can be reached by phone at 778-256-2559, or by email at email@example.com.
Connect with Jones on Facebook at facebook.com/justinjonesFSJ.
Email Managing Editor Matt Preprost at firstname.lastname@example.org.