After a break during the month of August, council members will return to the Chamber on Monday for the final stretch in their four year term. Municipal election day is October 22, and in December when the new council is sworn in, it will look different than it does currently.
For starters, Councillors Mike Poetker and Jaden Calvert won't be returning to council, as both decided not to seek re-election. Both Poetker and Calvert have been active and engaged members of council, and neither ever shied away from sharing their thoughts on issues as they were debated around the council table.
While Poetker and Calvert are the only two members of the seven-member council not running for re-election, there will be some other changes once the new council is elected. Deputy Mayor Harley Greenfield decided against running for re-election to that post, and instead has opted to run for a regular council seat, saying it would allow him more time to focus on Meaford-specific issues, particularly rural issues, without the added responsibility of representing the municipality at county council.
So one thing we know for certain with the coming election is that we will see a new face in the Deputy Mayor's post, and that new face will either be current councillor Shirley Keaveney or second-time candidate for the post, David Long. When Long sought the post in 2014, he finished nearly 1,000 votes behind the popular incumbent Greenfield, but with no incumbent seeking re-election for the post this time around, the race is on for filling the Deputy Mayor's seat on council.
While we will definitely see a new face in the Deputy Mayor's seat, our current mayor, Barb Clumpus, is hoping to earn enough votes to hold onto her seat, but she will face some stiff competition from two familiar opponents, with former councillor Jim McPherson and past mayoral candidate Ray McHugh challenging Clumpus for the post. I find that people sometimes misunderstand the role of mayor, and I have heard some suggest that with the 'right mayor' elected property taxes can be slashed (along with municipal staff according to some). But we have to remember that the mayor has just one vote at council, just as each member has one vote. The mayor doesn't have any special powers that will allow for miracles to happen, but the mayor does have some important duties and responsibilities, one of which is to lead council and to maintain civility and decorum. It is up to voters to decide which candidate would be best suited to leading the six other members of council, as well as who would best represent Meaford's interests at County Council. This should be an interesting race indeed.
With eleven candidates vying for the five regular council seats, Meaford voters will have much to choose from, but that means they'll also need to do their homework. Later this month we'll be publishing our special municipal election guide, and voters would be wise to spend some time reading through the profiles of each of the candidates in order to find the candidates who would best represent their concerns at council.
But while the voters are sifting through all of their options for the October municipal election, the current council still has plenty of work to do, though being a lame duck council, they won't be able to spend any significant amount of money or embark on any significant projects. So for those who have expressed to me some worry about what the outgoing council might do, worry not, provincial legislation ensures that the next council won't be burdened with any last-minute spending sprees.
It's been an interesting and productive four years of this current council term. As always there have been ups and downs, there've been angry residents turning up at council from time to time, and there's also been plenty to celebrate in the council chamber. After the five-year plan implemented by the previous council in order to right this municipality's financial ship, which hit ratepayers' pocketbooks with painful blows for four years (the five-year plan conveniently ended a year early prior to the last municipal election), property tax increases during this term of council have been kept to the bare minimum, which has been a relief to many.
The main concerns that the current council has heard from residents over the past few years have focused on roads and bridges, as well as winter road maintenance and a perceived lack of police presence on our streets, and I suspect that these three issues will be prominent during the campaign period, and will be three of the major issues that the newly elected council will grapple with for the four years of their term.
The summer is over, let the campaigning begin: it's just 46 days until election day.