Don Eady leaves politics on his own terms after 22 years

Renfrew – He served 14 years as both a councillor and mayor of Horton Township until 2014 when he was elected mayor of Renfrew. He went on to serve in that position for eight years up until last week when council held its final meeting of the term.

As the head of council in Horton, Mayor Eady was also the township’s representative at Renfrew County Council for one-term. During his 22 years in municipal politics, he has been referred to as councillor, mayor, Your Worship and county councillor.

When Renfrew’s newly elected council is sworn in this week, it will officially mark the end of a distinguished chapter of his life when the Mayor’s Chain of Office is formally placed over the shoulders of incoming mayor-elect Tom Sidney.

“It is closing a chapter in this part of my life and I am looking forward to spending more time with family, and I have a one-year-old grandson and I can get used to being called grandpa more than I am called mayor for a change,” the outgoing mayor told the Leader.

When he first entered politics in 2000, he knew there would be a large learning curve, especially since the Municipal Act had some major amendments within a short period as several municipalities had undergone major overhauls as a result of amalgamation.

“I was new to the world of municipal politics and for someone who is brand new I admit it seemed a little daunting at first as some of my colleagues around the council table had previously served,” he said. “John (Bud) Doering was the reeve at the time and he kind of took me under his wing and served as an example of how to approach the role of councillor and his knowledge and sincerity helped me during those early years. For me, it is important that I pay my respects to him for the example he set for me and others.”

After serving as a councillor for 10 years, he decided to make a run for the top job and when he won the mayor’s race in 2010, he also became the third generation of Eadys to serve as the head of council for the township where his family dates back to the early settlers.

“When I look back, it is pretty amazing when you consider my grandfather Mel (Melville) Eady and my Uncle Norm Eady both served as reeve during their time on council and I became the third generation in my family to hold that distinction.”

When asked how he felt about making the jump from Horton council to the mayor of Renfrew in 2014, he used one word.

“Humbling,” he said. “To have the people of your community vote for you to let you know they support your efforts was totally humbling and I never took an election for granted,” he said. “When the good folks of Renfrew elected me as their mayor, I was once again humbled and a little nervous. I was going from mayor of a rural farming community to a town with a strong history but also a town with a larger population, more staff and more responsibilities.”

Mayor Eady was returned as mayor in 2018 along with five of six incumbents. One of the main priorities was to upgrade the downtown core by replacing the entire core which included new, wider and accessible sidewalks; replacement of century-old pipes located beneath the surface of the road and the installation of flower beds and more benches.

“The main street of any downtown is the heartbeat of the town and Renfrew has one of the busiest and prettiest downtowns in the Ottawa Valley,” he said.

However, when asked to look back at his eight years as mayor and to point to one thing he is most proud of in terms of a great accomplishment, his answer was surprising.

“I say this with mixed feelings, but I think the greatest achievement is how the elected council, town staff and our residents came together during the COVID pandemic and carried on the business of providing services to all our residents,” he said. “We had over 53 town emergency meetings alone, on top of all the other meetings we attended. We still got the roads plowed and maintained and all the other services went on and I owe a debt of gratitude to so many staff and our elected council to get all of us through those trying times.”

The outgoing mayor is a soft-spoken man and like most people, there was the odd occasion he would find himself a little hot under the collar if some initiatives did not work out as planned. However, his dedication to making his community a better place to live and his genuine feeling of being humbled and honoured through the support of residents over his 22 years of public service may in fact be his greatest accomplishment.

Bruce McIntyre, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader