Highlands East makes inaugural meeting a community affair
By Sue Tiffin
Published Dec. 11, 2018
Surrounded by community members, municipal staff and rows of students from Wilberforce Elementary School, the Highlands East 2018-2022 council was sworn into office on Dec. 6.
Students singing “O Canada” opened the inaugural meeting, held at the Lloyd Watson Memorial Community Centre, after which Councillors Ruth Strong, Ward 4; Cec Ryall, Ward 3; Suzanne Partridge, Ward 2; Cam McKenzie, Ward 1; and Mayor Dave Burton read their oath of office.
Councillor Ruth Strong is the new face to the council, winning the Ward 4 seat after the previous term’s councillor Joan Barton opted not to run again.
Burton, reelected for his fourth term, assumed the chain of office from Shannon Hunter, chief administrative officer. He said he was elated to see the Wilberforce students in attendance to learn about the democratic process, and thanked constituents as well as his family for their support. He also warned of the danger of social media in misconstruing information, as he said he saw numerous untruths online related to the short-term accommodation issue in the municipality.
“We have weathered the short-term accommodation storm, however, many unresolved items remain,” he said, before saying incorrect information on social media can create a divide in the municipality. “Stating this, we have a responsibility to all of our residents and collectively we will provide a resolution that will meet everyone’s needs.”
Burton said he had an ambitious outline for the next four years, which he referred to as “the years of change and together we can.” He listed tasks that include a union classification review, an organizational review as identified in the municipal strategic plan, enhancing and providing services that promote recycling and reusing throughout the landfills, further work on creating Herlihey Park, a service delivery review and housing initiatives. He also noted a facilities review, which will include a five- to 10-year plan complete with operational costs, recommendations for cost savings and an updated energy audit.
In his opening remarks, McKenzie touched on advisory committees, which he said have been productive in the municipality, and that they are a “window of opportunity” for residents to give direct input to council. He also spoke to bylaw enforcement, which he said he heard a lot about while knocking on doors during campaigning.
“Either we don’t have the right bylaws in place, or we’re not enforcing them effectively,” he said. “I believe that’s going to be addressed with a new council early in the term.”
McKenzie, like the rest of council, welcomed constituents to reach out to him.
“I can’t promise to fix every concern or issue that you might bring to me, but I will promise to listen.”
Councillor Suzanne Partridge said she was overwhelmed by the support she received during the election.
“I really hope I can live up to the expectations and continue to provide strong representation for not just Ward 2 but all of Highlands East,” she said. She also spoke to the importance of advisory committees, which she noted have a member from different communities in the municipality.
“...I think we’re really moving in the right direction to pull the whole municipality together, and losing the mentality of the individual communities,” she said.
Ryall, returning for his third term, accredited his acclamation to the people of Glamorgan, and praised outgoing councillor Joan Barton to applause from the gathered crowd. He made note of Glamorgan lake associations which he said have provided him with insight into what is important to the seasonal people in the region, and also the strong volunteer bases in both Gooderham and Irondale, saying it is important to offer them support to keep community spirit growing.
“Most importantly, Glamorgan has many committed, knowledgeable and outspoken people,” he said. “Fortunately I have several of them who are not afraid to tell me what I need to hear and don’t hold anything back. So, when I found out that I was acclaimed, I was both surprised and grateful. I realized that those outspoken people, who have been solid representatives on this council, have trusted me to represent them for a third term. A trust that I take very seriously.”
Strong told the crowd watching the proceedings that she found it very gratifying that so many are interested in the operations of the municipality.
“I will do my best to work with you all to make Highlands East a place we can all enjoy,” she said. “I’m here to work in your best interests and am certainly open to suggestions.”
Reverend David Watson offered a reflection, and a luncheon was held with the help of the Legion’s Ladies Auxiliary.