Conmee sees changing of the guard

Conmee, Ont. — Political change blew through Conmee Township in 2022 as well as an ill-timed thunderstorm in April that led to the community declaring a state of emergency.

The changes began in June when longtime Conmee mayor Kevin Holland won the Thunder Bay-Atikokan riding for the Conservatives in the provincial election followed by Conmee deputy mayor Sheila Maxwell taking on the township’s top job in July.

Maxwell, a two-term Conmee councillor, was subsequently elected to the mayor’s seat in October’s municipal election with three new councillors — David Maxwell, Chris Kresack and David Halvorsen — joining incumbent Grant Arnold on Conmee’s council.

“I think (our council) did pretty good with all the stuff going on with the provincial election and everything,” said Sheila Maxwell. “(Holland) being in and out of office campaigning and what have you. Going from deputy to mayor and appointment. We didn’t fill that one council seat (when I took over as mayor) because it was so close to the municipal election that we didn’t have to fill that council seat. We were down to three councillors and we did pretty good I think. It was an easy transition with the new council coming in.”

One of the anomalies of the municipal election in Conmee was the way councillor Halvorsen became elected.

In Oct. 24’s original count during the municipal election, Conmee councillor candidate Ellen Davis actually bested Halvorsen by one vote (121-120), but the following day’s recount showed that the race for the final councillor position was a tie at 121-121.

After the recount, Halvorsen’s name was pulled from a hat to claim the fourth and final councillor position.

“I don’t think (a draw from a hat has ever happened before),” Maxwell said. “We’ve had a lot of firsts this year. We had a tie, we had a draw from a hat kind of thing. I never knew that either. I’m like, ‘Are you serious?’

“It’s (Conmee chief administrative officer/clerk Shara Lavallee’s) choice. (Lavallee) looked into the tie and everything else and said, ‘Yep, we can do it this way.’ I’m like, ‘OK.’

“We have our probably first female mayor in the township, so that’s kind of nice.”

Prior to the successful elections by Holland and Sheila Maxwell, the township had to declare a state of emergency in late April when a thunderstorm washed out roads with water pooling on the unthawed ground of Conmee.

The work has been done to restore the roads, but Conmee continues to be in a state of emergency.

“The only reason why we still are (in a state of emergency) is because we haven’t got paid for the bills (from the provincial government),” Maxwell said. “You have (the work) contracted out and at the end it’s all kind of taken care of.

“What (Holland) has always said to me, ‘Stay in your state of emergency until all the bills are paid.’ Once everyone’s paid up, that’s when you come out of (the state of emergency).”

Besides seeking the funding for the road repairs that were done following the flood, Maxwell said the relatively new council will be “getting our feet wet” in the next few months, assigned to various boards, applying for grants, hosting a seniors’ seminar and working on infrastructure projects such as upgrading the hockey rink shelter.

John Nagy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal