Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Out With the Old…In With the New

Stephen Vance, Editor

While the November 19 meeting of council was in many ways a typical council meeting, it was also special in that it was the final meeting of the current council term. The next meeting of council on December 3 at Meaford Hall will see the inauguration of the newly elected council.

When the new council takes over, it will look a little different than it did this week. Two members will no longer be seated around the council chamber horseshoe – Mike Poetker and Jaden Calvert.

Both have been active and engaged members of council.

Calvert has often been referred to as the environmental and social conscience of this term of council. No matter the topic or issue, Calvert has always been on alert for potential environmental or social impacts of decisions made by council. He frequently challenged his fellow council members, most a couple of decades older than himself, to consider things they might never have otherwise considered.

While I didn’t always agree with him, I most often did, and I frequently found myself sympathizing with his being the lone voice of social or environmental reason on council. Calvert will certainly be missed on council.

Poetker too has been a strong voice on council, and he was often a voice of calm reason when debates became heated. At other times his sense of humour could quickly lighten a heavy moment, breaking tension where tension needn’t have existed. While Poetker’s humour will be missed in council, more importantly his ability to quickly whittle an issue down to the core factors that council should be considering will be a loss in the council chamber.

Both Poetker and Calvert opted not to seek re-election this time around, and I suspect that if they had run, we might very well have the same seven members on the new council as we have had over the past four years, as both have strong support in the community.

Two familiar faces might be leaving council, but their replacements are no doubt eager to jump in with both feet.

Ross Kentner and Paul Vickers will each assume a seat on council next month for the first time.

With his high profile in the community after several decades in local radio media, Kentner earned more votes than any other candidate in the October municipal election. With no previous council experience, he will no doubt have a learning curve, but he has been regularly attending council meetings for the past several months so he has definitely been doing his homework. How he will perform on council remains to be seen, but no doubt his supporters are counting on him to bring a fresh voice and new approach to council.

Paul Vickers has also been regularly attending council meetings, brushing up on the intricacies of serving on a municipal council. He appears to be fully engaged and eager to jump in and start serving his community.

I suspect that both new councillors will quickly discover that they are just one vote on council, and making change is never as easy as any of us think it should be. They will also discover that their phones will ring off their hooks, and their email in-boxes will quickly fill up when the next hot-button issue comes along – which reminds me, winter is fast approaching, and we’ll no doubt experience a major storm before too long and our roads will be a mess in spite of the hard work of our roads crews, and there will most certainly be a flood of phone calls to members of council, so my advice to the new members is: be prepared.

One other change will happen once the new council takes over. Deputy Mayor Harley Greenfield will assume a regular council seat, and Councillor Shirley Keaveney will become Meaford’s Deputy Mayor. This will be an interesting position to watch in the months and years to come as Keaveney and Greenfield are very different political animals and each has a very different approach to serving on council. I agree with one of them more than the other most of the time, but I prefer the style of the one I agree with less often, so I will be watching the Deputy Mayor’s position with interest.

I have written many times before that I don’t envy the job of a municipal councillor. It can be a frustrating, thankless job for which the pay is extremely low, but it can also be incredibly rewarding, though I suspect the rewards are often overshadowed by the frustrations. I wish all the members of the new council well in their mission over the next four years.

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