By Jenn Watt
Published Dec. 4, 2018
Dysart et al and the County of Haliburton owe a debt of gratitude to Murray Fearrey.
Reeve of Dysart et al for most of the last four decades (the position was renamed mayor last year), he has played a key role in the development of many of the institutions we cherish today.
Stroll through Head Lake Park and you will see his name on a plaque commemorating the year it was completed – 1982.
Visit the medical centre and you are again in a space Fearrey played a role in creating.
An Echo article published in 2006 detailed his long career starting in 1971 as a councillor with Dysart et al, focused on bringing a sewage system to the town of Haliburton.
He was instrumental in having the “provisional” county label removed, allowing the Highlands to access the same benefits as other full-fledged counties in the province.
Later, he would step up for health services, helping to convince the rest of council that the county should guarantee a $6 million loan to the HHHS Foundation, allowing the construction of the Highlands’ two health-care facilities.
When Fleming College needed to expand, again Fearrey was crucial to its progress.
“Fearrey and then cabinet minister Chris Hodgson were key political players in getting provincial funding for a new college,” the Echo article states. “… Fearrey, for his part, promised stakeholders that the municipality would provide land for free and guarantee it was serviced…”
As a politician, Fearrey is accustomed to disagreement. His decisions weren’t universally popular and he’s the first to say that’s to be expected.
He was fiscally conservative, a pragmatist, and liked to take a slow, considered approach to spending. He also did much of his work behind the scenes – a practice that did not sit well with everyone.
Whether you agreed with his political viewpoint or not, most people recognize that in his time in office Fearrey saw his purpose as protecting and improving Dysart et al and the broader county.
Councillor Walt McKechnie thanked Fearrey for his work at the last meeting for this term of council.
“When you walk down the street, and drive into town, look at all the great accomplishments,” McKechnie said. “You’re the leader. You were the driving force behind that.”
The next time council gathers, there will be new faces around the table and a new mayor, Andrea Roberts, guiding discussion.
They may decide to take the municipality in a different direction. Things may change.
But every decision from here on out will benefit from the foundation built by Fearrey – and the many other dedicated councillors and reeves who worked with him and before him – to create the community we all love.
And for that we should say thank you. Fearrey’s lifelong commitment and hard work has helped make the Haliburton Highlands what it is today.