Wilmot mayoral candidates on how they'd address housing, climate change and racism in township

Two candidates seek the mayor's seat in the Township of Wilmot: Jennifer Pfenning and Natasha Salonen. They told CBC K-W what they see as top issues in the township, including housing, climate change, policing and racism.

Jennifer Pfenning and Natasha Salonen seek top seat

Waterloo Region Votes: Wilmot mayoral panel

12 months ago
Duration 23:18
Two people are seeking the mayor's seat in the Township of Wilmot: Jennifer Pfenning and Natasha Salonen. They sat down for a panel with CBC K-W's Craig Norris to answer questions about local issues.

Two women are in the race to become the next mayor of Wilmot township.

Current Mayor Les Armstrong is not seeking re-election. The two candidates in the running to replace him are Jennifer Pfenning and Natasha Salonen. 

Both recently sat down for a conversation with CBC Kitchener-Waterloo's The Morning Edition host Craig Norris to answer questions about top issues in the township.

Salonen was born and raised in Wilmot Township and attended the University of Oxford in the U.K. She returned home in 2019 to help care for her father, who has ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). 

She's worked for local MPs and MPPs "and I've learned a lot about the issues that Wilmot faces."

She said she's running for mayor to be a "strong voice that understands policy where all the different levels of government work and how they intertwine and how we can continue to move forward as a community as we face growth but not become a bedroom community."

Pfenning is a current township councillor and organic farmer. She says she's lived in the community for 29 years and raised her family on their farm just outside of New Hamburg. When her children were younger, she worked as a nurse's aide, but said she didn't make enough in that role to pay for childcare, so she decided to stay home with her children.

"I don't regret a minute of it," she said.

"Four years ago I was convinced to run for office," she said. "I certainly wanted to serve this community because I love it, I love my life here and I'm very grateful for what this community has given me and my family."

In the discussion, Pfenning and Salonen spoke about a number of local issues including housing, how to address climate change, policing in the township, racism and building unity in the community.

How they'd plan for more housing

In December 2021, a developer wanted to use a ministerial zoning order to build a 1,200-unit housing development. There was immense public pushback on the project — the use of ministerial zoning orders have been controversial in other projects in the province including an Amazon warehouse in Cambridge and another in Pickering.

In February 2022, the developer withdrew its request to use a ministerial zoning order.

But housing is also a top concern of many voters, including the need for affordable homes.

Both Pfenning and Salonen were asked what they would to help move along development of housing in the township.

Salonen noted the township is expected to grow, and so there needs to be sustainable, long-term growth.

"What we need to do is work with developers on building cohesive communities, with the new development going in that seamlessly merges with the currently existing communities," she said.

"We also need to be looking at infrastructure, not just in the ground, but at social infrastructure so that we can support everyone in our community, both current and going forward."

She pointed to a new affordable housing project using the former BW Feed building in downtown New Hamburg as a great example of the community working together to come up with solutions.

That project "is a great model that has seen great success in other communities." Pfenning said it's important to keep the small town feel of the township and that development "doesn't create divisions within the community."

She said she doesn't think the use of ministerial zoning orders are the best way to address growth.

"I think that proper planning and ensuring that community growth happens where we want it, where we need it, and in a way that fits as well as a way that makes best use of the green space we've already dedicated and designated for growth," she said, noting farmland needs to be protected.

She'd also work with developers to stress there's a need for different types of housing and the local business community can be part of developing an effective plan for the future.

Voting in Wilmot

People can vote online, by phone and in-person in Wilmot. There is no in-person voting on the designated election day, Monday, Oct. 24.

Telephone and online voting will begin at 10 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 14 and end at 8 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 24. 

In-person voting will take place over two weekends in all wards between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. on:

  • Saturday, Oct. 15.
  • Sunday, Oct. 16.
  • Saturday, Oct. 22.
  • Sunday, Oct. 23.

The township says it made the decision to run the election this way to "ensure accessibility for all voters." The township notes telephone voting "is not compatible with rotary phones."


  • An earlier version of this story said Salonen returned home 17 years ago to care for her father. She returned home in 2019.
    Oct 03, 2022 3:15 PM ET


Kate Bueckert


Kate has been covering issues in southern Ontario for more than 15 years. She currently works for CBC Kitchener-Waterloo. Email: