By Richard Bell
Colten Simmonds may be a newcomer to politics, but he’s no newcomer to the Preston riding. His father is from East Preston, and his mother’s from North Preston. He was raised in North Preston. He moved to Ontario when he was 12, but came back to North Preston every summer, and finally moved back to work at the North Preston Community Center when he was 27.
Simmonds laughs about his days playing basketball in high school. “I had the ability to play at a high level,” he said. “I was a player when I was allowed to play, when I wasn’t getting myself in trouble. Like a lot of other kids growing up, I was misdirected, misunderstood, you now, I ventured off a little bit, but I found my way back. That’s why I put so much energy into the young people: the people who didn’t give up on me is the reason I’m still here, and about to run to be a member of the legislature.”
Simmonds is best known for his work with We Will Win, a non-profit that he founded to combine basketball with a range of programs to help kids succeed, both on the court and in school. Because of We Will Win, he earned his “coach” nickname. The pandemic basically shut down the program, and Simmonds started focusing more on mentoring kids.
I asked Simmonds when he decided to become a candidate. Laughing at himself again, he said “I became a candidate on Saturday when they called the election! I don’t know if you’re a believer, but I am, and God prepares you for things that you don’t even know he’s preparing you for, and when the times come, you’re ready for it.”
“I’ve never been involved with politics before. But I advocate and do a lot of community work on a regular basis anyway. This campaign is an opportunity to effect change from the ground level, with me sitting at the big table on behalf of the community. This is my community and I want to continue to serve them, in a place where I have influence, to make a difference.”
Education is at the top of Simmonds’ list. “Education is the main thing because it opens doors to so much more, helps people to become self-sufficient. And I want to help people win the community who are working in the trades, to get their Red Seals. There are so many tradespeople who don’t have the proper paperwork to get the full benefits from their skills.”
Simmonds says he’s also committed to getting more help for seniors. “We gotta take care of our elderly,” he said. “They paved the way for us to be here, and the only way to pay them back is to make sure the last years of their lives are as comfortable and happy as we can make them. I know that I’m standing on the shoulders of so many who came before me.
On the need for more affordable housing, Simmonds says, “We’ve got plenty of land out here, let’s start building the affordable housing that we know we need.
Simmonds said he hoped to get help in his campaign from some of the kids he’s worked with over the years. “Except for the children of other two candidates—I can’t ask them to help me--but kids I’ve coached know that I’m about change for them, for making things better. I will reach out and pull as many of them as I can, so they can see what it’s like to be part of the political scene. I’m learning too; I’ve got good people around me, so I can campaign as the community guy that I am.”