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Sherri Rollins/Kevin Freeman/Sheila Billinghurst

It looks like quite a few changes are coming to Winnipeg City Council this year, with six current councilors (out of 15) not seeking re-election. Among those who are leaving are Marty Morantz and Jenny Gerbasi, the only Jewish current members of council.

Gerbasi (formerly Jenny Steele)) was the longest serving councillor. She is retiring after 30 years on council. Morantz is stepping down after just one term – during which he served as Finance Chair and Chair of Infrastructure and Public Works – to make a run for Parliament as the Conservative candidate in the southwest Winnipeg riding of Charleswood-St.James-Assiniboia-Headingly in next year’s Federal election.
Over the past 100 years, rarely has there been a group of city councillors (or aldermen as they were previously known) that did not include at least one Jewish member. Frst time candidate for council Sherri Rollins is hoping to continue that tradition, following in the shoes of such respected figures as A.A. Heaps (1917-25), Morris Gray (1930-1942). David Orlikow (1050-58), Joe Zuken (1961-83), Larry Fleisher (1980-92), Helen Promislow (1980-89) and Gerbasi herself.
The difference with Rollins is that she is a Jew by choice. As reported in an article in this paper written by Rebeca Kuropatwa four years ago, Rollins, most recently the chair of Winnipeg School Division No. 1, was attracted to Judaism as a teenager through the writings of Martin Buber. She underwent formal conversion through the Shaarey Zedek Synagogue and has been an active member of the Rady JCC for some years.
Rollins was first elected to the school board in 2014. She says that her focus as a city councillor would be on economic development and working to make our community safer.
“I have had 20 years of experience as a senior policy analyst dealing with social and economic development,” she says.
“What I am hearing on the doorstep is that people are concerned about crime and drug addiction,” she notes. “I would like to see 24-hour drop-in centres for at-risk communities.”
On the economic front, she says that she would work to improve on the Capital City plan to boost industry, as well as art and cultural organizations.
“We also need to improve our roads and back lanes and our bus service,” she adds.

While Rollins, who is running to replace Jenny Gerbasi in Fort Rouge, would be the only Jewish City Councilor on the next council, three members of our community are looking forward to extending their terms as school trustees.
Claudia Sarbit, one of Winnipeg’s longest serving school trustees, already knows that she will be serving at least one more term as a trustee in the Seven Oaks School Division. In Ward 3, which she represents, she was one of four trustees, all of whom were re-elected by acclamation.
Sarbit says that she had considered stepping down after more than 30 years on the school board but was encouraged by supporters to continue for at least one more term. “I really enjoyed being a school board member,” she says. “Supporters were telling me that I made a difference. I began to think that I would miss being a trustee. I still have a lot of ideas I would like to work on. There is always room for improvement. I made a last-minute decision to run again.”
The longtime trustee first ran for office after her older son started school. “He was in the French Immersion program,” she recalls. “I was involved with the parent council and there were some issues that I was passionate about. My good friend Celia Baron urged me to run for trustee.”
Among the issues that she says she will be focusing on are working on a concussion protocol policy for high school athletes in the division and lobbying for extending the Chief Peguis Trail to connect with Centreport.
As it currently stands, she points out, Seven Oaks School Division taxpayers pay considerably more per capita in school taxes than other taxpayers due to the paucity of business and industry within the division. She argues that extending the roadway would encourage the development of more businesses and industries in the area due to improved transportation links and also save wear and tear on the streets in the area.

Although Shiela (Cookie) Billinghurst (the former Cookie Bass) is just completing her first term as a school trustee representing Ward 2 in Pembina Trails School Division,, she has over 40 years of experience as a principal, teacher and educator.
“Becoming a trustee seemed like a natural progression in my career,” she says. “Spending my life as an educator, I watched school boards make decisions which ultimately affected teachers and students.”
Billinghurst is a pioneer in the field of adult education in Manitoba. Sheila established and ran one of the first computerized language labs in Manitoba. She also taught students in grades 3 to 12, as well as at Red River College and the Adult Centre, giving her a broad perspective on the school system. She used her expertise and wealth of understanding to guide the implementation of 50 community education programs across Winnipeg. She also worked as a faculty advisor at the University of Manitoba, Faculty of Education where she trained new teachers in school.
Billinghurst’s work in the field earned her the YMCA-YWCA 2014 Woman of Distinction Award for Education, Training and Mentorship.
“I am passionate about inspiring personal growth and the development of lifelong learning, and am proud to share Pembina Trails’ values of vision, innovation, enthusiasm and involvement,” she says. “I am actively working towards achieving these goals.”
“I enjoy the opportunities to speak at graduations, meet students and families and be part of positive change.”
Billinghurst adds that she appreciates the support that she has “received from her constituents and looks forward to their continued support."

Kevin Freedman is also completing his first term as a school trustee – he represents the Winnipeg School Division No. 1’s Ward 5 – and he shares Billinghurst’s and Sarbit’s passion for education.
According to the University of Winnipeg website – where he teaches in the department of business and administration - Freedman is a prolific non-profit director and former executive in non-profit sport and social service organizations. He holds a master’s degree in non-profit management with a focus on board governance and strategy.
In his first term as a trustee, he says that he focused on governance – the operation of the board itself – in an effort to make the operation of the board more effective. “We still have a ways to go,” he says. “To be effective, we need to get the right information to make the right decisions.
“We have to be able to see the big picture to better capitalize on our opportunities.”
Freedman is a recipient of the YMCA Peace Medal and the Governor General’s Caring Canadian award among others and has started various environmental and aid projects which have helped and educated tens of thousands around Manitoba and in Indonesia.
Just a reminder that election day is Wednesday, October 24.

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