The time taken to honour Meaford resident Marilyn Morris, better known to many as Meaford's (now retired) Head Scarecrow, before Monday's council meeting served as a reminder that our council deals with much more than budgets and potholes.
With the municipal budget season nearing its completion after weeks of presentations, discussions, and debates, it must have been refreshing for members of council to see a full house in the council chamber – a full house of smiling faces that is. Large crowds at council meetings often bring with them angry scowls and less than flattering critiques of council's performance.
Not on Monday though. Rather than a council chamber filled with angry ratepayers, the colourful crowd (many wearing straw hats adorned with faux flowers and leaves) was beaming with the excitement of seeing one of their own, one of their fellow volunteers, honoured for more than two decades of volunteering for an event that has continued to grow year after year.
When you cover a municipal council for a living, you become accustomed to the humdrum affair that is a council meeting. The agenda, in all its black and white glory, is rarely exciting, and the issues can bring about some pretty serious debate, so a dose of levity is certainly a welcome change.
As you might expect, once the festivities were over and council got to work plowing through the agenda, the crowd thinned, and ultimately disappeared altogether, leaving just council members, a few staff, and a couple of media folks in the council chamber until the statutory public budget meeting that was scheduled for 6:30 began.
While the presentation to the retired Head Scarecrow filled the council chamber gallery with roughly 50 residents, just two residents attended the statutory meeting – such is the life of a municipal councillor. Few residents typically turn out to the meeting from which the subject matter will be used by some to bash councillors over their collective heads for the year to come.
But as I have written many times before, the job of a councillor is not easy, and it can be a thankless endeavour much of the time. Thankfully we're in the final stretch for this year's budget process, and council will soon approve the budget, allowing them to focus their energy on other issues facing the municipality.
We've got a busy year ahead in Meaford, with construction starting on the new library, and the rehabilitation of the Sykes Street bridge, along with a host of infrastructure projects. Councillors will no doubt hear some complaints along the way, but that's part of what they signed up for.
In the coming months councillors will no doubt field complaints over traffic congestion in the downtown core caused by the upcoming bridge rehabilitation, along with the construction of the new library. Councillors will also field a slew of complaints about potholes that will reveal themselves after the spring thaw, and they will no doubt be second-guessed and criticized from time to time – it simply comes with the job.
If members of council become frustrated with ratepayer complaints, projects that are delayed or over budget, or the enormous amount of work we expect them to do for little in the way of compensation, I think they can reflect upon the beginning of Monday's meeting, with the council chamber gallery full of smiling faces, a room full of volunteers, because ultimately that is why councillors do what they do – for the community, for the collection of people that live within the borders of this fine municipality, and while we might complain from time to time, on the whole, we're a pretty content bunch with a thriving community energy.