How long have you been representing city government in Richmond Hill, and what made you decide to get involved?
“I have been active in politics at a State and National level for many years in a supporting role, but I was elected to City Council eight years ago. I decided to run for Mayor four years ago knowing Mayer Fowler was term-limited. I teach both Government and Military History at Richmond Hill High School, so I’ve been interested in politics for decades.”
When did your election to Mayor become real for you?
“When I saw my name on a t-shirt. It said, ‘Vote for Russ.’ Very simple, but definitely made it very real for me.”
Recently the city hosted a growth forum. What do you think about the recent growth and the changes that are coming to the city along with this new growth?
“People like the lifestyle, easy commute, and schools that Richmond Hill offers. It’s a live-and-work community. We can’t stop the growth that’s coming because our community is so desirable, but we can demand quality growth and partner with local developers to accomplish this.”
Why is multi-family becoming the larger part of the new construction in Richmond Hill these days?
“This is a market-driven demand. Younger buyers (millennials) look for affordability and convenience, while empty nesters often want the maintenance-free lifestyle. People want a variety of housing options. Of course, multi and single family homes must fit into our vision for Richmond Hill, and must not burden our schools or roads.”
Why are there so many homes being built and so few businesses?
“Most Businesses, particularly national companies, require a minimum population within a certain distance, and until we get more homes, we won’t see many of the chain restaurants and businesses that residents are asking for. The city has partnered with a marketing firm to attract/recruit these large restaurants and retail chains. Many of these businesses want a minimum of 50,000 residents in the immediate area as a threshold. We hope that soon, with the current wave of construction, we will see some of these businesses start to come. The growth of the Belfast Commerce Center is also key. People moving here need jobs, a home to live in, and businesses they can use. The city is also working hard to attract industrial jobs at the new Commerce Center. Infrastructure before development is best. We are also monitoring the impact the growth is having on our schools. We are watching this closely.”
Having dog-friendly amenities is becoming an important consideration when choosing a community. What does the city offer in this area now, and is the city considering offering any new pet-friendly amenities?
“People love their animals and need recreational space for them. Both J. F. Gregory and the Sterling Creek Parks are dog-friendly and offer dog waste stations. It has been suggested that a fenced dog park would be a good idea and we are deciding if there is enough support for this.”
Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with us, Russ, and congratulations on your recent election Mayor.
“Thank you. I live and work here and I have a vested interest in keeping and enhancing the charm and beauty that Richmond Hill has been so well known for.”