Sunday, June 16, 2024

What to Expect From the New Council

By Stephen Vance, Editor

With the 2014 municipal election over, many are wondering what to expect from the newly elected council after they take over in December.

Mayor-elect Barb Clumpus may have earned enough votes to capture the mayor’s chair, however her 38 percent of the votes means that she will have plenty of work ahead of her if she wants to appeal to the 62 percent of voters who did not cast their vote in her favour.

Mayoral candidate Jim McPherson captured 1529 votes, or 31 percent, while Ray McHugh managed to earn 1069 votes or 22 percent of votes cast. Both of these candidates built significant followings during the campaign, and many supporters of each of those candidates are far from Clumpus style voters.

Much of McHugh’s support can be found in rural Meaford where high taxes and municipal staffing levels are significant hot-button issues that Clumpus – or any Meaford mayor – is unlikely to handle to the satisfaction of rural voters. McPherson’s support was more far-reaching than McHugh’s, and included rural and urban support, and during the campaign McPherson promoted a wholesale change up around the council table.

Clumpus as Mayor is likely to ruffle feathers of various segments of the community, however in her first four years on council she has demonstrated an ability to rise above council pettiness and she remains calm in the face of frustrated residents voicing concerns at council. If Clumpus is to be an effective mayor, she will need to build some bridges, and construction on those bridges between urban and rural, between the establishment and the average Joes, between the council and the residents needs to begin quickly.

After the election results were tallied, there is no change in the Deputy Mayor position. Harley Greenfield won the post convincingly, beating out his opponent – David Long – by nearly 1000 votes. One of Greenfield’s best qualities can also be his most frustrating quality. What some call flip-flopping, others consider to be the ability to change his position on an issue after some research and reflection. Greenfield may have earned a reputation as a flip-flop politician, though that characterization fails to note that Greenfield typically explains in depth his reasons for changing a position on an issue, and typically those reasons are well thought through, and sensible.

Of the five councillors on the newly elected council team, four have been elected for the first time. Only Michael Poetker managed to hold on to his council seat with Councillors Lynda Stephens and James McIntosh finding themselves on the sidelines in favour of some fresh faces. Poetker will likely take the lead on many council discussions in the early months as newly elected members find their voices, and settle into the job.

In her years on council, Stephens has often been the environmental conscience of council. Often educating council, and the public on environmental issues and initiatives, Stephens contribution on that front will be missed, but will likely be taken over by Jaden Calvert. Calvert is young, energetic, and heavily involved in social and environmental initiatives, and will be a strong voice for sustainability and community building.

Newcomer Steven Bartley is an Owen Sound grocery store owner who during the campaign stressed his skill at setting and meeting budgets over his 31 year business career. Bartley is a rural resident, and he will likely be a strong voice for rural issues. Look for Bartley to push for cost cutting measures and tax reductions.

Another first time councillor, Tony Bell, is also a Meaford business owner. With deep roots in the community – both rural and urban – Bell is likely to be a voice of reason, and a builder of bridges between the rural and urban areas of the municipality. What he lacks in experience, he makes up for with his deep involvement in the community over many years.

The Councillor-elect who received more votes than any other candidate was Meaford business owner Shirley Keaveney. Her 3042 votes was some 600 more than her nearest opponent. While this is Keaveney’s first kick at the council can, she has much experience working with the municipality and council through her long-time role on Meaford’s Chamber of Commerce board, as well as numerous task forces and community initiatives. Look for Keaveney to quickly find her feet, and to take a prominent role on council.

A new council, more than half entering the council job for the first time. We can expect a slow start, and possibly a fumble or two, but this collection of councillors is stacked with experience, and should be operating at full steam in short order.

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