Lena Lazanja

Town assisting Rotary Club to move Ribfest to the Libro Centre



By Ron Giofu


The town will be assisting the Rotary Club of Amherstburg move its signature event to the Libro Centre.

The Rotary Club’s tenth annual Ribfest will be at its new location the first weekend of July and town council agreed to waive equipment and rental fees to use the facility with the town also assisting with site preparation. Ribfest committee members Lena Lazanja and Steve Butcher appeared before town council seeking assistance with Lazanja pointing out the club’s many accomplishments over the years, including the steady growth of Ribfest. Lazanja stated that Ribfest has exceeded their expectations.

“We want to make the tenth year our best year for Ribfest,” she said.

Butcher, who is co-chairing the committee with Ann Marie Favot, said their aim is to “amp it up and make it bigger and better.” The move to the Libro Centre means they need an extra 2,500 linear feet of fencing, repairs to the grounds and removal of berms and piles of dirt.

The new site, according to Butcher, will allow the Ribfest to grow and bring in more vendors.

“Centennial Park was excellent but (the Libro Centre site) is an acre-and-a-half more,” said Butcher.

The tenth annual Amherstburg Rotary Ribfest is planned for July 5-7 at the Libro Centre.

Butcher added that by upgrading the site at the Libro Centre, it could prove beneficial to more than just the Ribfest.

“Moving forward with this could attract other event to the area,” he believed.

Councillor Peter Courtney noted the Greater Essex County District School Board is allowing the town to use the 15 acres the board bought for another year. He questioned whether the Ribfest should go back to Centennial Park for one more year and plan to be at the Libro Centre for 2020. Lazanja believed it would be too late to switch back with Butcher calling this “an ideal time to expand.”

Deputy Mayor Leo Meloche said he would have liked to have seen the request several weeks earlier, prior to the town’s budget deliberations, but Butcher indicated plans started falling into place only recently. Butcher reiterated his belief that the improvements at the site would “benefit the town and future events at the site.”

CAO John Miceli said council approved developing a master plan for the Libro Centre as part of the 2019 budget. He added that some of the costs that the town would incur in preparing the site and waiving the fees could amount to about $15,000 but believed that total could be brought down if town staff does some of the work necessary at the site.

Other expenses could be a one-time cost, the CAO believed, with items such as fencing being able to be used at other sites as well.

Councillor Marc Renaud said he was supportive of the initiative, noting it was the Ribfest’s tenth anniversary. Councillor Michael Prue said he wanted a report on where the upwards of $15,000 in costs would come from, as the money is not budgeted, with Miceli indicating such figures would be contained in variance reports.

The Ribfest also launched a new Twitter account. People can follow it by going to @aburgribfest1.

CANDIDATE Q&A – Lena Lazanja


The town is going through a re-branding process. How would you define what Amherstburg is and how it should be promoted?

With beautiful waterfront, rural landscapes, top-notch sporting facilities and events, as well as a seasonally bustling downtown core, we have become a top destination for many; tourists, sports enthusiasts and history buffs, as well as becoming a welcoming and safe destination for young families and retirees to call home. Unfortunately, I believe that Amherstburg has focused much of its energy on promoting a quiet, slow-paced, “sleepy-hollow” image. This image, though not necessarily negative, has created a type of promotional stagnancy for our future development. We are more than our Fort, heritage buildings, waterfront parks and recreation facilities. Amherstburg is a hidden diversity gem: a vibrant, socially and culturally-diverse, caring community, made up of rural and urban landscapes that are unmatched. In order to move Amherstburg forward, we must encourage promotional directives and outreach plans to create a sustainable environment that does not only cater to retirees and tourists, but also welcomes young families to live, work, play, and stay.



Lena Lazanja seeking a position as a councillor in the Oct. 22 municipal election.


Taxes and spending will always be election issues. What is the best way to spend money on roads and infrastructure while, at the same time, keeping taxes at a reasonable level?

In order to provide some form of relief to the residential tax payer, while maintaining our current infrastructure needs, there must be other sources of revenue generation to meet future demands. Simply put, Amherstburg cannot sustain itself without future plans for industry growth and commercial investment. Without such investment, there is no tax base growth. Without business development, there are no jobs, no reason for young people to stay, and there will be insufficient revenue generation for growing infrastructure needs and capital projects, which will inevitably threaten the sustainability of our town.

There is a distinct need for responsible planning and spending. All municipalities incur necessary expenses (e.g.: road and facility improvements). However, council/administration must create sound plans in advance of purchases and tenders, develop reasonable and balanced budgets, and continually follow-up and re-evaluate our current expenditures. It is our paramount responsibility to the tax payer, whose money we essentially hold in trust, to make honest, well-defined, productive, and intelligent decisions, with regard to future spending.





“Transparency” and “accountability” are words often heard during election campaigns. What specific measures would you undertake to ensure town council lives up to those words?

On town council, we are entrusted with the voices of the residents. As such, I am responsible for ensuring that their concerns are not dismissed, questions are answered factually and promptly, and that I follow-up with resident concerns and issues. In my personal life, workplace, and as a councillor candidate, I have always been honest, objective, considerate of others, responsible for my decisions (and the outcomes), and open to all points of view. Transparency on the part of town council requires maturity, directness, freedom from manipulation, dismissal of rumour, and the purging of misinformation. True accountability dictates that strength, courage, and professionalism are critical, especially when taking ownership and responsibility for ones behaviour or misinformed choices. My personal ethics and the value I place on honesty require me to only support and share factual information, resist biases, research reports, analyze outcomes, and encourage my colleagues to do the same. I will not lessen the voices and concerns of my constituents, simply because they do not mesh with the status quo. 





How would you encourage economic development for the Town of Amherstburg over the next four years (and beyond)?

Though the sustainability of our established businesses is imperative, we need to think bigger and long-term, if we are to become a sustainable economic centerpiece in this region. We need to re-focus our energies on; the planning/recruitment process (resurrecting our Economic Development Committee would be a good start), promotion/marketing (underway with our re-branding initiative), and providing assistance/incentives with entrepreneurial mentoring (Chamber or BIA working together with Council/Town administration), as critical aspects for new business initiatives and industry/commercial expansion. Hand in hand with such a strategy, would be a re-evaluation of basic communication and transportation infrastructure, which are essential to economic growth and commercial expansion.

Concentrating future economic development/planning efforts based solely on tourism and franchise designations is limiting and does not allow for diverse industrial interests, entrepreneurial engagement, and trade initiatives to find room at the table. The difficulty in advancing the public interest is to find a balance that scaffolds economic transactions while not over regulating, and provides support and incentives without discouraging initiative.





The policing issue is still top-of-mind for some of the electorate. Is providing services on a regional level a good way to save money, a detriment to the town and its identity or would you view it on a case-by-case basis?

This issue is one that has, unfortunately, divided our town. Much of the commentary circulating amongst our residents for the past year (and beyond) has been negative and contentious. I would gladly pay more for any service that is of highest calibre, policing and emergency response, especially. My concerns with the procedure and lack of transparency, with which this contract is being negotiated and finalized, have compounded my scepticism. It is reported that much of our current service is to remain the same, with the only difference being that of new management. Having yet to witness this new management team’s techniques, make it deceitful and irresponsible of me to decide that it must inevitably be worse. If our same high quality service remains paramount, then I am even for a cost savings. I am not resistant to change, and although it is easy to be fearful of the unknown, I am willing to watch, very carefully, in order to determine whether more years should be committed.

Lazanja hopes to help Amherstburg stay “on the map” and be sustainable



By Ron Giofu


Lena Lazanja wants to keep Amherstburg on the map and do so as a member of town council.

Lazanja is seeking a councillor’s position in the Oct. 22 municipal election and calls Amherstburg a “hidden diversity gem,” adding it “is the perfect foundation on which to build.” She noted the mix of rural and residential and the retirees and young families.

Community involvement is something Lazanja said she is no stranger to and she believes that has allowed her to speak with people from all walks of life.

“Since moving to Amherstburg in 2006, I have been actively involved in our community and, as a result, I have been fortunate to work alongside its residents, community leaders, service organizations and volunteers,” said Lazanja. “I have had the pleasure of serving people of all backgrounds and causes and I see my role on council as providing the next step in my continued service to our town.”

Lazanja believes the current town council has done “an incredible job” on moving ahead with initiatives and called it “critical to our progress in putting Amherstburg on the map.” What is equally important, she continued, “will be our ability to look ahead with future goals in order to maintain that momentum, to see the potential growth beyond our boundaries and, most importantly, to continue to build a positive relationship and follow up with our residents wants and needs.”

Lena Lazanja is seeking a councillor’s position in the Oct. 22 municipal election.

Bringing in younger families and youth is important, she believes, and opportunities need to be provided for them to come and stay in Amherstburg. She said Amherstburg lacks necessary opportunities for youth and young families to see a future in Amherstburg.

Lazanja said her vision is grounded in three key elements, which are a continued commitment to transparency and accountability, a focus on responsible economic growth and “lucrative development,” and an emphasis on stability.

“We have an under-utilized waterfront and areas rich in commercial investment potential,” she said. “We have a desperate need for industry growth and establishing sustainable business.”

What the town does have, she added, is a shared goal of being actively involved in the betterment of Amherstburg.

“Imagine what our ‘little-big’ town could accomplish if we collectively committed to the changes we want to see?” Lazanja asked. “I am up for the challenge to work with, not for, the residents of Amherstburg as one of their town councillors, to ‘be the change you want to see.’”

One of her main goals, she added, is to listen to people in order to serve the residents. She said she “sees so much promise here” and that while Amherstburg is “on the map,” the goal is to continue to push that forward and make the town a “place to be, not just to retire, not just in the summer but the place to call home.”

Tourism is a big draw, Lazanja noted, but believed more needed to be done to bring in people during the winter months.

Among the volunteering and work experiences that Lazanja has undertaken include working as the executive board secretary at Royal Canadian Legion Br. 157, being a past assistant lecturer and research assistant in the Faculty of Education at the University of Windsor, a past general manager at the Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce and a former administrative assistant at Amherstburg Community Services, being a Rotarian for ten years including four as president, and being a member of the  board of governors at the University of Windsor as president of the Graduate Students Society and Women’s Issues Liaison. She states she is also currently working towards her PhD in education.

“I wish all of my fellow candidates a successful campaign,” she added.

Town council waives fees for Rotary Club’s Ribfest


By Ron Giofu


The Rotary Club’s eighth annual Ribfest is this weekend and organizers received some financial relief thanks to town council.

The town has waived $2,035 in fees for the Ribfest, with $1,352 being parks fees and the rest for equipment rentals. The Ribfest committee was represented by chair Carl Gibb and Rotary Club past president Lena Lazanja.

“We are a charitable organization and all the funds we receive continue to be funneled back into town,” Lazanja told town council.

Councillor Leo Meloche stated he supported the Ribfest and didn’t have any problem with waiving the parks fees but was concerned about waiving the equipment fees. He said equipment suffers wear and tear and wanted to ensure the town has the resources to replace equipment when need be and believed “at some point we have to draw the line.”

Members of the Rotary Ribfest Committee, an event that operates under the umbrella of the Amherstburg Rotary Club, are disappointed with the guidelines they have to operate under to comply with the sign bylaw. Town council upheld the current sign bylaw at the March 20 meeting.

The Amherstburg Rotary Club’s 2017 Ribfest is July 7-9.

“Unfortunately, the equipment – we use it and we have to replace it.”

Waiving the fees was an easy decision for Councillor Rick Fryer, pointing out that the Rotary Club has undertaken many projects that have benefitted the residents of Amherstburg. Fryer thanked the Rotary Club for its efforts over the years.

“If it was up to me, we can approve the waiving of the fees every single time,” said Fryer.

The Ribfest runs 12 p.m.-11 p.m. July 7 and 8 and 12 p.m.-7 p.m. July 9 at Centennial Park.

Outgoing Rotary president reflects on term, hopes club grows in future



By Ron Giofu


It started with a visit to a local tea room almost nine years ago and led to four terms as president of the Rotary Club of Amherstburg.

Now, Lena Lazanja is moving out of that role thankful she took it on in the first place.

“It’s been quite the ride,” she said.

Lazanja admits she didn’t know the scope of what Rotary accomplishes both locally and internationally, the latter seeing projects done in third-world countries to improve the quality of life there.

“I’m proud of that,” said Lazanja. “I think that’s the one thing that encourages me to carry on.”

Lazanja originally became president in 2011-12 and remained in that position in the 2012-13 year. She stepped back for one year but the president’s job was hers again in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 years.

Rotary terms start July 1 each year.

“It’s nice to belong to this family,” she said.

Being involved with the Rotary Club of Amherstburg has assisted Lazanja in many ways, Lazanja continued. She was new to town when she joined and it has helped her get to know the community, learn leadership skills and build relationships.


“Rotary has helped me meet new people, it has helped me with employment,” she said. “We’re all volunteers. It’s a wonderful way to come into Amherstburg and become part of the community. I encourage anyone that is new to the community or anyone who wants to give to the community to come to the Ribfest or come to a meeting and see what it’s all about.”

The local Rotary Club has 14 members, she said, and they are always looking for more. She said the Rotary-sponsored Interact Club at General Amherst High School is growing and that could lead to a boost in Rotary membership down the line.

The club has performed a number of activities, projects and events in Amherstburg over the years, perhaps the biggest of which is Ribfest. This year’s event is scheduled for July 8-10 at Centennial Park and Lazanja states “a lot of people don’t understand that it’s a Rotary event.”

Lazanja said one of her biggest accomplishments as president was a smoke alarm initiative done several years ago in conjunction with the Amherstburg Fire Department. She said she wrote the grant and it allowed for door-to-door distribution of smoke detectors in rural areas.

“It was a great accomplishment because it received, at that time, national recognition,” said Lazanja, noting the joint project was written up in a firefighter publication.

That project also received an award from Rotary District 6400, which not only encompasses clubs in this part of Ontario, but stretches into Michigan and Ohio as well.

“I got to ride on a fire truck. Who doesn’t want to ride on a fire truck?” she joked.

Lazanja has also helped with such projects as bicycle rodeos and the Amherstburg Classic golf tournament, the latter that has helped other organizations in the community. One such organization has been the AMA Sportsman’s Association, who also has programming to assist local youth.

The upcoming “Fill a Backpack” event at Amherstburg Community Services (ACS) is another project the Rotary Club has recently been involved with, as they hosted a chicken dinner at Royal Canadian Legion Br. 157 which attracted over 60 people.

“I was the president and I get to be the face (of the club) a lot of the time but, really, there isn’t anything I could do without the rest of the club,” she said.

In addition to thanking her fellow club members, she also thanked the volunteers that have helped with Rotary events, including the 200-250 that help out at Ribfest.

Lazanja said she will still remain as a member of the Rotary Club but she also plans to get involved with other groups and causes. She wishes incoming Rotary president Laura Jurilj the best and said she is “confident and comfortable in her following in my footsteps. She’ll do a great job, for sure.”

Rotary has enriched her life, she added.

“I’m so glad I stumbled into a tea room and eventually became president of such a wonderful group,” said Lazanja.