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Would you vote for this SimCity gamer as Ward 1 councillor?

SimCity 4 requires players to juggle municipal finances, transportation, utilities, land-use and environmental issues. Derek Pearce thinks the computer simulation game is pretty good training for being a city councillor
05-03-2018 Derek Pierce
Derek Pearce, Ward 1 City Council candidate. David Helwig/SooToday

Derek Pearce knows a lot about cities.

He learned much of it playing video games.

"I've studied cities for pretty much all my life," says the 29-year-old candidate for Ward 1 councillor.

"When I was a teenager, city-building games were what interested me. I got really involved in looking at how a city works, how it's run," Pearce tells SooToday.

When he's not been baking or serving up signature coffee blends at the Boundary Road Timmy's, Pearce has been busy spearheading Project Sault Ste. Marie, a local organization working to recreate the twin Saults using the popular SimCity 4 simulation computer game.

SimCity 4 requires players to think like city councillors, juggling municipal finances, transportation, utilities, land-use and environment issues to maximize quality of life for ratepayers.

Born and raised in the Sault, Pearce initially was part of the Sault's youth out-migration problem.

He moved south to Huntsville.

He lived there for five years.

He ended up coming back.

"I noticed that things hadn't really changed while I was away. I actually thought they'd gotten worse," Pearce says.

In addition to his passion for computer games, Pearce credits Mr. Theriault, his civics teacher at Alexander Henry High School, for fueling his interest in municipal governance.

"He got me involved in civics. From there on, the interest just flourished and grew."

And then there was the commitment Derek made to his father, Darrin Phillips, who died in a 2016 apartment fire at 544 Albert St. W.

His dad had noticed Derek's intense interest in cities and made him promise to one day run for public office.

"So I decided then that when the next City Council term came up, that I was going to run."

"Sault Ste. Marie is a great place to live but I see a further decrease in population, lack of opportunity for our youth and a lagging local economy brought on by a lack of industrial growth hindered by the high business and industrial taxes."

As a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Ratepayers Association, Pearce is very much interested in the appointment of a local auditor-general, integrity commissioner and lobby registrar.

He also wants to cut spending.

"I think the city spends way too much money on stuff that they don't need."

"The amount of money that the city has spent on consultants, they probably could have created their own in-house consulting firm."

"They're wasting money removing historical items from waterfronts that really don't need to be moved."

Pearce also wants to work on the Sault's opioid problem.

"For years, we've ignored it, hoping it will go away. Clearly it hasn't. Because of that crisis, we're now experiencing a heightened crime rate."

Current Ward 1 Councillor Steve Butland announced this week that he won't seek re-election.

In other news, Algoma District School Board Chair Jennifer Sarlo filed paperwork this week to run again for Ward 1 trustee, as did incumbent ADSB trustee Susan Thayer in Ward 4.

As SooToday has previously reported, Mayor Christian Provenzano submitted his nomination papers on Tuesday, the first date on which nominations were accepted. 

Ward 2 Councillor Susan Myers has decided to leave City Council and run instead for Ward 2 Algoma District School Board trustee.

Sandra Edwards, an incumbent ADSB trustee, is also seeking election in the Ward 5 school board race.

By the close of business hours on Friday, no nominations had been received for Huron-Superior Catholic District School Board, Conseil Scolaire de District du Grand Nord de l'Ontario or Conseil Scolaire de District Catholique du Nouvel-Ontario.

Voting day to choose a mayor, municipal councillors and school board trustees is Monday, Oct. 22, 2018.

The deadline for filing or withdrawing nomination papers is 2 p.m. on Friday, July 27.