Municipal politics is quite often a thankless role and it takes a certain person to be able to approach it with enthusiasm, dedication and a positive attitude. Quite often, many people who run for small town office, do so with the intent of changing the world overnight. In reality, only dedicated representatives, who are in it for the long term, can accomplish the task, which often takes numerous terms of office.
Wilma Wotten, the Regional Councillor for Scugog Township, is one of those people. She has been in municipal politics for nine years and is making quite a difference in the way she is able to accomplish many positive things.
Wilma was born in Oshawa to Dutch immigrant parents. At the age of 5 months, her family moved to Blackstock, where her father still lives on the farm they purchased. She attended Cartwright High School, and has a passion for the wellbeing of the area in which she grew up, and still lives today.
During her high school years, Wilma, one of five children, worked at Hank’s Pastries, as so many young people in our area did. She picked strawberries, worked on the family farm, and spent summers at Flamingo Pastries (now Maple Leaf Foods on Old Simcoe Road).
Wilma decided at an early age, that travel and a travel related career was in her future. As soon as she graduated from high school, along with a girlfriend, she backpacked throughout Europe for four months. If there had been any question about her desire to work in the travel industry, the trip through Europe certainly satisfied any doubts she may have had.
Upon her return, she attended Seneca College in the travel and tourism course, and as soon as she graduated, Wilma started to work at Sears Travel in Oshawa. After six months she was offered a position with Mitchell Travel, also in Oshawa. Wilma stayed with them through several mergers and is still with the firm today, although for the past 19 years it has been known as Kemp Travel Group.
“I was quite fortunate,” Wilma explained. “When my first child was born, I was able to load the bassinette into the car and have my baby sleep at my desk. Since then, they have been very good about letting me work from home, especially since most of my travel work is done in the evenings.”
Wilma and her husband Tom met in high school, when Wilma asked him to a Sadie Hawkins dance. The couple were married in 1982, and today have three boys and a girl, as well as three grandchildren.
In 1998 Wilma became involved in a project, near and dear to her heart. She had heard of a developer who owned 28 acres in Nestleton, and was unable to obtain a building permit for a subdivision. After months of negotiation the developer decided to sell the property, with the caveat that no housing could be built there. Wilma approached the Township with a plan to purchase the property, and turn it into what is now, Cartwright Fields.
In 1999 the Township agreed and Wilma became the first Chairperson of the Cartwright Sports & Recreation Inc. , a not-for-profit, charitable organization. In conjunction with the Township of Scugog, it develops, manages and maintains Cartwright Fields and its facilities. Today it is the most used park in the Township. It has two baseball diamonds, a soccer field, a children’s playground, a network of walking trails and a community centre.
Wilma was being urged to run for council by a number of her friends. She decided it would be a great opportunity to do more for the community. She ran for the position of Councillor for Ward 4 (her home area), and was elected in 2010. In 2014 she ran again, and was re-elected by a majority, confirming that she was and continued to be, an asset to the community.
Last year, Wilma decided she could continue serving the people of Scugog on a Regional level, and in the last election put her name forward, when then, Regional Councillor Bobbie Drew decided to run for Mayor. Wilma won a by landslide victory, capturing nearly twice the votes of her three opponents combined.
“Politics is in my blood,” Wilma explained. “My father [John Wolters], was a Councillor for Blackstock in the eighties, and I remember him going door to door to raise funding for an arena.” The Blackstock area, which has nearly a quarter of the Township’s population, saw major renovations to an existing ice pad in 1988, and another renovation in 2013.
Wilma, as Regional Councillor, is a member of the Health and Social Services committee. She just stepped down from the position of Chair of Cartwright Fields and attends most of the other Regional committee meetings. She is eager to learn as much as possible of regional effects on Scugog.“ I think it is difficult to make informed decisions without having all the facts,” she commented.
Jonathan van Bilsen is a television host, award-winning photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. His show, ‘The Jonathan van Bilsen Show,’ on RogersTV, the Standard Website or YouTube, features many of the people included in this column.