Nova Scotia

New Coun. Sam Austin eager to take on 'big picture' planning for Dartmouth

Sam Austin is eager to take on his new role as District 5 councillor. Following Gloria McCluskey won't be easy, he says, but he plans to make his own mark.

'She didn't accept things that were put in front of her on face value,' Sam Austin says of Gloria McCluskey

Dartmouth urban planner Sam Austin is the new councillor for District 5. (CBC)

It's not Sam Austin's first time around the block.

The urban planner took a run at Gloria McCluskey's Dartmouth Centre seat four years ago, in 2012. While the veteran municipal politician beat him handily — winning 52 per cent of the vote — Austin came in second with a respectable 19 per cent showing in a race that included five other candidates.

With McCluskey's retirement, Austin was victorious against seven others vying for the seat this time. He beat out Adam Bowes, Gabriel Enxuga, Ned Milburn, Tim Rissesco, Derek Vallis, Kate Watson and Warren Wesson.

"My first time running and going up against Gloria McCluskey was a tall order," Austin said Saturday night following his election victory.

"I realized halfway through the 2012 election that I wasn't in it to win it that time around, so when we came second, it felt like victory then. So this is all the sweeter."

'They're really going to miss Gloria'

Dartmouth Centre residents had mixed reactions to Austin's bid.

"I really heard two things on the doorstep. People were really looking forward to some new faces on council. But then there's a lot of people in Dartmouth — they're really going to miss Gloria in a lot of ways," he said.

"As you went around in the community, there's no way you couldn't stumble across people that she's helped over the years. Pretty impressive."

He said he's learned a lot from watching McCluskey, who spent 23 years in municipal politics.

After 23 years in politics, Gloria McCluskey retired after Saturday's municipal election. She said it won't be an easy transition for her. (Steve Lawrence/CBC)

"Dartmouth has been used to having things done in a certain way for a long, long time," Austin said.

"I hope to take some things Gloria has done very well — she's always good at the constituency side, in terms of getting back to people."

Big picture planning

Her independence and resilience are other qualities Austin values.

"One of the things I've always admired about her, she's been an independent voice on council. She didn't accept things that were put in front of her on face value. I didn't always agree with her, but I appreciate that quality and it's something I want to bring to council, too."

The municipality is undergoing some "big picture" planning right now, he said.

"You've got the integrated mobility plan, the Metro Transit plan coming back for its final [review], the community facilities plan and of course, the big centre plan — it's kind of near and dear to my heart, being an urban planner."

Dartmouth issues

Dartmouth has its own focus as well, he said.

"Daylighting Sawmill River, the future of Portland Street, trails around Penhorn Lake to weeds in Albro Lake. There's going to be a learning curve, I'm sure," he said.

"For me it's a passion. This is your chance to shape the future of your community in a positive way."

Austin is realistic about putting his mark on District 5.

"There's only one Gloria McCluskey. Those are big shoes to fill."

With files from Pam Berman