After 13 years as a City Councillor, Tom Gill will be running for Mayor of Surrey in the upcoming civic election. Chances are most DRISTHI readers already know this, and we will hear plenty from Tom and other candidates over the coming months about their positions on various municipal issues, such as transit, policing crime, development, and other matters of concern to residents of Surrey. Of course, these issues are incredibly talented, but DRISTHI also wanted to learn more about what drew Tom to municipal politics, what continues to drive him as a municipal politician, and how he finds balance while being so busy.
Tom’s municipal slate, Surrey First, features a diverse range of candidates: four males and four females, all of whom reside in various neighborhoods within Surrey, who will be running for City Councillor positions alongside Tom. He wanted to ensure that the Surrey First Slate was representative of the needs of city residents. He initially ran as he noticed a lack of diverse voices on Surrey’s City Council. “My job as a City Councillor was unique,” he explains. “Many people from our diverse communities seemed to gravitate towards me naturally. Knowing another language, being from the South Asian community and understanding its culture, it gave me a unique perspective regarding understanding the needs of our diverse communities. I wanted to ensure that our team represented that diversity. When I joined Council, I was the youngest on this team. Now, there are several that are much younger than I am, and I am proud to run alongside with all of them.”
Reflecting on his 13 years as a City Councillor, Tom prides several key accomplishments. “We created a unique downtown core,” he muses. “We took a risk in moving City Hall to Whalley, but the risk paid off. We have Central City Mall, SFU, Kwantlen Polytechnic, Fraser Health, all located there. We have Innovation Boulevard and are drawing high tech and clean tech industries to the area.” He also cites investments in turf fields and recreation centers as critical initiatives undertaken during his tenure as City Councillor. All these things e have accomplished while keeping municipal taxes among the lowest in the Lower Mainland.
Tom’s belief in fiscal responsibility and a carefully considered spending as something related to his own early experiences in life. Born and raised in Kamloops, he recalls how his father’s furniture business suffered in the 1970s due to an economic downturn. Later, as a young adult, he moved to the Lower Mainland where he attended post-secondary and completed his professional accountancy designation. “It was the late 80s – I was a young adult, and those were challenging times,” he recalls. “We were in a recession, and the jobs were scarce. I relied on student loans, and shared a basement suite with my sister.” Recognizing and adapting to economic upswings and downturns very much shaped Tom’s outlook not just as a municipal politician – but as a husband, parent, and certainly as a resident of Surrey.
“I firmly believe that seeing those hard times is what shapes an individual. Also, it also helps one to appreciate the good things in life. I see life as a glass being half full as opposed to empty.”
Tom does not rest on his laurels as a Surrey City Councillor. “We accomplished a great deal, but there is more than we can do. We need to continue to update bylaws and look at housing affordability and ways to continue to draw young families to the city. I want young families to raise their kids here, but I also want those kids when they grow up, to continue to afford to live here.” Tom also wants to address traffic congestion as it impacts many residents’ quality of life. Expansion of transportation options via Light Rail Transit, holding a referendum on whether to maintain the RCMP or switch to municipal policing and banning handguns are also vital planned tasks for the mayoral candidate. “Certain issues fall under provincial and federal responsibilities, but as a city, we have often involved our initiatives in matters such as health and crime prevention and intervention.
Looking forward to continuing to make bold investments in prevention and intervention, especially among issues that affect our children and youth.”
Over the past few years, Tom has found greater balance concerning serving the community, tending to his family and taking care of his health. He has noticeably slimmed down. “Over the past few years, I spent more time on myself to battle blood pressure issues, cholesterol issues, overeating fast food, not enough exercise. Having found greater balance, I am more active and eat much better now, and I re-introduced myself to hobbies I hadn’t engaged in for years. So, I realized, more than ever, the importance of balancing work, life, and one’s health.”
The general local elections in British Columbia are on October 20, 2018.