New council begins new era in Woodstock

With several new faces around the Woodstock council table for its first Council in Committee and regular council meeting on Jan. 10, part of the agenda focused on bringing everyone up to date.

Newly elected Mayor Trina Jones, who served as a previous council member, asked department heads to introduce themselves and their roles in the Council in Committee session, which preceded the council meeting.

Three of Woodstock council's eight members previously served on council. Jeff Bradbury has several years under his belt, while Mark Rogers, elected deputy mayor, and Norm Brown won re-election after a term cut short by municipal reform.

Council's new faces are Will Belyea, Lorne Leech, Christa McCartney, Julie Williams and Michael Martin.

1. Meet the department heads

While the new council lacks years of experience, that's not the case among department heads. During the Committee in Council, each director took the podium to outline their respective backgrounds and duties.

Woodstock Fire Chief Harold McLellan set the bar high for years of experience, telling council he is in his 49th year with the department. He outlined the command structure of the town's acclaimed volunteer firefighting force.

Unlike his counterpart with the fire department, Woodstock Police Force Chief Gary Forward's service to Woodstock is only in its fourth year. Still, like McLellan, he brings decades of police experience.

A highly trained veteran of 34 years, including 27 years with the Fredericton Police Force, Forward spoke primarily of his expectations for the Woodstock force and its push for transparency and accountability.

"It's imperative the police force takes the lead in accountability," he told council.

Forward said the force would deliver its 2022 annual police report in February and outline its strategic plans for 2023, which will include measurable benchmarks.

He explained the Woodstock force maintains strong partnerships with the RCMP and other forces across the province.

The Woodstock chief took the opportunity to inform council of his department's acclaimed efforts at public communication, noting the WPF webpage is considered "one of the best" in the province.

He praised staff member Cherie Doucette for her remarkable efforts to maintain the page.

Woodstock Director of Tourism Tobi Pirie, who also brings several years of service to the town, outlined a long list of events, projects and duties under her purview, including her department's work with local groups and festivals.

Like Pirie, Woodstock Director of Recreation and AYR Motors Centre manager Kelly Foster-Hallett has served the town for many years. The physical education and horticulture grad uses her vast experience to work with staff to deliver recreational and social programs to the area population and manage the town's many recreational facilities.

She noted the expanded AYR Motor Centre, now classified as a community centre, delivers a vast array of activities and events, including major concerts, trade shows and sporting events.

Deputy Mayor Mark Rogers asked Foster-Hallett if her department would take over the management of community halls, parks and facilities from communities which merged with the town as part of the municipal reform.

She said those facilities would not become town assets. CAO Garnett explained outside rec facilities have their own rec committees but noted that could change in the future.

Public Works Supervisor Greg Stokes told council he began work with the town 35 years ago at the old Woodstock Arena. He now manages public works and water and sewage staff, which keeps the streets maintained, water running and facilities operational.

"We're thrilled with the department," said Mayor Jones.

Fallon Lappage, with 17 years of experience with the town, explained her role as the Human Resources director, working with employees and the union on work-related issues.

Director of Finance Kristin Pelkey and CAO Garnett, who also supervises planning and development, also shared details on their roles which, like all supervisors and employees, will undergo significant change in the expanded Woodstock operations.

2, New signing officers

With the election of Mayor Jones and the appointment of Deputy Mayor Rogers, council passed a motion naming the town's signing officers.

The motion provides financial signing authority to Jones, Rogers, CAO Garnett and Director of Finance Pelkey. All transactions require two signatures, including either Jones or Rogers and either Garnett or Pelkey.

3, Recognizing 211 Day

Woodstock council agreed to shine a red light on its town hall on Feb. 11 to mark 211 Day.

In a letter to council, Daniela Fernandez, Director of Community Engagement for the 211 N.B. helpline, asked the town to help market and acknowledge 211 Day.

Fernandez explained 211 is an information and referral service hotline connecting New Brunswick quickly to human, social, community and government support.

"It is free and confidential," she explained.

Fernandez wrote that phones are answered 24/7, 365 days a year, in 170 languages through interpretation services.

"Anyone can call," she said.

Fernandez said 211's core mandate is to assist New Brunswickers to navigate food access, financial assistance, mental health resources, newcomer support, family services and more.

Jim Dumville, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, River Valley Sun