The list of council candidates now includes two long-time friends running together, on the same platform.
Maria Mavridis and Tim Balasiuk join incumbents Allan Bisback, Gary Burroughs and Sandra O’Connor in announcing they are running for council.
Mavridis and Balasiuk have known each other since their school days in town — both went to Niagara District Secondary School, although Balasiuk (when he’s talking about paddle-boarding, he goes by Tim Bala) finished school at Ridley College.
They are the same age, 42. Balasiuk was born here, to a family that goes back several generations, and Mavridis moved to town at the age of 11, when her family bought a business on Queen Street. They both operate businesses in town, and they have the same perspective and priorities when it comes to issues.
Mavridis was the recipient of the 2021 Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce Women in Business Community Impact and Leadership Award, and Balasiuk won the NOTL Chamber of Commerce Peter Ling Entrepreneurship Spirit Award, and a Niagara 40 Under 40 Award.
Mavridis, who has a post-secondary degree in business marketing, lives in Virgil and has a daughter, Hope, who attends Crossroads Public School. Maria has been on a number of boards and committees over the years, including Big Brothers, Big Sisters, Niagara Nursery School, Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum, Niagara Jazz Festival, and has been a mentor on the Lord Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council. She also owns and operates an organization that raises money for local charities, Anchor Niagara.
Tim lives in the Old Town, is married to Michelle Reynolds, and has a dog, Otis. He forgets to mention that he is the person in the viral video who chased away a coyote that was attacking a small dog, during the height of the urban coyote sightings.
Mavridis explains that a few years ago she and Balasiuk got into the habit of watching council meetings online and then discussing them, forming opinions on top issues and how they would handle them if they were on council.
Balasiuk says leading up to the 2018 election, both former Lord Mayor Pat Darte and current Lord Mayor Betty Disero approached him about running for council. He thought about it, but decided he didn’t know enough about council and how it operates, so he has spent the last four years learning.
Both believe their knowledge of the history of the town, as residents and business people, have provided a solid background for them to serve on council and help to create the important balance between residents and tourism.
Their list of their top issues includes protecting neighbourhoods, completing the Tourism Management Strategy, completing the recreational master plan, providing integral services for all residents and businesses, preserving agricultural land for farming, and celebrating and supporting culture.
Balasiuk, grew up in the hospitality industry.
His great grandmother was a Kathleen Isabelle Gooderham Drope – of Gooderham and Worts, once the largest Canadian distiller of alcoholic beverages. The Drope family was initially from the Grimsby area, but came to Niagara-on-the-Lake, where his grandfather was the project manager of the historic Court House restoration in 1980, with the Niagara Foundation.
His grandfather died not long after the restoration was completed, and Drope Hall, upstairs at the Court House, was named after him.
Balasiuk worked at a number of local hotels, including the Pillar & Post, which was founded by his grandfather in the 1970s, who converted the former canning factory to a hotel, seeing the value of tourism to the community. “He always wanted to do things right,” says Balasiuk, who says I think the reason I’m so interested in running for council is “I feel like I owe it to my family. If I have the opportunity to have a say in the future of NOTL, I feel obligated to play a part in it.”
Balasiuk is the owner and operator of Paddle Niagara, which he founded 10 years ago, along with hosting Kids Camps, teaching kids about water safety on the Niagara River and Lake Ontario, while providing access to the water for locals and tourists.
He loves the town, and strongly feels a responsibility for preserving it, both in recognition of his family’s role in its history and his desire to make it the best it can be for future generations.
“There has been a large influx of newcomers to NOTL and the Niagara Region, and I hear about other municipalities that have gotten lost in the wash. We have such a unique fabric in town. It’s special, and it needs to be treated as special. The people who have grown up here had a hand in weaving the fabric of this town. I feel like my grandparents built the loom.”
Newcomers have come to live in a town they love, and Balasiuk wants to not only maintain what it is they love about it, but to maintain the sense of community he knew growing up in it. “I want them to see the town the way I see it, experience it the way I experienced it, when there was a level of respect for the community and for our neighbours. I want to maintain that small community and the respect we showed for all our neighbours. I don’t want there to be a divide between people — there is no reason for it.”
Mavridis too points to the history of the town, and her desire to step in and “help to make it the kind of town my daughter will still want to live in when she’s my age.” She points to the need for zoning that preserves neighbourhoods, to replace bylaws approved more than two decades ago, and allowed for development that was built in the last 10 years or more. She’s also concerned about the Transportation Master Plan, recreational facilities, and all institutional properties such as the former Parliament Oak and hospital properties disappearing.
“The Glendale plan is a big deal for me. There’s a lot of land to be developed and I want to be sure that 10 years down the road, my daughter will be able to buy a house.”
She had been thinking about running for council for a while, and then one day after watching a council meeting and talking about it she said, “I think it’s time.”
Mavridis is a busy woman with Anchor Niagara, and three family-owned businesses on Queen Street, and council is a big time commitment, “but it’s important. It’s worth it. I feel like I can make a difference. And I don’t want the same issues to still be sitting around four years from now.”
She’s talked to her father, Bob Mavridis, about balancing council business with Queen Street businesses, plus fundraising and her family life, but she’s used to being busy and getting things done. “It’s second nature to me to be doing a lot. I think it’s time, and I can do it. I don’t like the divide between residents and businesses, and I think it’s important for this generation to change it for the next. It wasn’t like this in the past. Times are changing, and tourism is different.”
There were issues that weren’t addressed during COVID because there were more important things that needed to be done to get through the pandemic, says Mavridis. “It’s time to implement what is needed and manage it. It’s time to make sure there is something left for my daughter to take over. After 30 years on Queen Street, I feel like so much has changed, and so much has stayed the same. We’ve got to bring the whole community together. End of story.”