Heartfelt farewells shared at final Midland council meeting

Words of wisdom were imparted at an emotional final meeting of Midland's town council.

Mayor Stewart Strathearn reached the conclusion of the final regular meeting of council recently, where he allotted five minutes to each council member to have their say. On behalf of staff, he asked CAO David Denault to begin with the speeches.

“For some of you it was your first experience on council, and for some of you it was several terms serving in this part-time role with full-time expectations,” said Denault. “What must be noted is you served during a term that, for most of its duration, faced one of the most unique and prolonged events faced by a council in recent history.”

COVID-19 came up frequently in the speeches, with several on council noting the accomplishment of the King Street rejuvenation project that came in “under budget, on time, during a pandemic,” as Strathearn said.

Mayor-elect Bill Gordon spoke about his time on council, noting the conflicts members overcame to do the work needed to run the town in a manner that exhibited professionalism.

“Clearly, it hasn’t been without its challenges. I’ve had to learn — twice, anyway, for sure — to stay in my lane and to learn what that lane looks like, and learned to use every inch of it now, and do that effectively,” said Gordon.

While Coun. Jim Downer was not in attendance during the meeting, many of the recently elected members of the incoming council for the 2022-26 term were seated in the council chambers, and several council members addressed them in their comments.

Coun. Cher Cunningham shared her views on the education and changes required to run the municipality, and reinforced her thanks to Strathearn and staff for their guidance throughout the years.

“I have to admit, when I first started on council, I thought, ‘I’m going to do all of it but budget’s going to suck; it’s just one of those things you get through.’

“Budget is sexy,” Cunningham announced. “Budget’s where stuff happens, right? It’s where the decisions are made of what our priorities are, what we actually care about.”

Coun. Cody Oschefski was emotional during his speech. His words were short, thanking the town for “the best eight years of my life,” adding a comment that described deputy mayor-elect Jack Contin as “a living legend.”

Returning Coun. Beth Prost also kept her words brief, noting her favourite part was through the interactions with the town’s residents.

“It’s a small town and you think you know everybody, but you really don’t,” said Prost.

Coun. Jonathan Main took his time to thank his family, members of council and staff for their support. Strathearn also thanked Main for his help with various infrastructure and community projects, sharing a laugh with fellow council members about his championed cause: the trees.

From Coun. Carole McGinn came words of advice directly to the incoming council in regard to the challenge the municipal role provided residents.

“This role … if you have any ego in you, it is going to kick the living snot right out of it. Your ego must be gone,” said McGinn. “But that is the role of servitude.”

She added how, through her own experiences, it was only when residents revealed their vulnerabilities that a municipal government could truly understand the deep-set issues in their lives and set forth to enact change.

“We’re asking people to share their raw truths with us, and say what they want for their future, considering the seniors and the children. Really, we’re asking them to be as open and vulnerable with us as possible, because we’re in a position of great influence — and now I’m thinking about Spider-Man,” McGinn laughed. “Yes, with great power comes great responsibility.”

Deputy Mayor Mike Ross gave the teariest speech, pausing several times to get through his departing words after 12 years on council — four as a Ward 2 councillor and eight as deputy mayor. But through his many thanks to family and staff, he warned his final words would be political in nature.

“As my duties come to an end,” said Ross, “I still and will always believe the brightest future for north Simcoe is Penetanguishene and Midland uniting as one, but I’ll leave that to Coun. — sorry, mayor-elect — Gordon, and hopefully we can do that. But I honestly … thought it when I first got in here, and I think it more and more to this day," said Ross.

“Did we get everything right? I know we didn’t. Can I promise you every decision made, I believe, was for the best interest of all residents? I love Midland, and it’s never faltered. As a born-and-raised Midlander for 56 years, one thing I know for sure: Midland, by far, has the greatest people. Midland has been quite a ride. Thank you for the opportunity. Go Bills,” Ross concluded with a shout-out to his much-heralded sports favourites.

Finally, Strathearn took the stage for his parting comments.

“It’s been an honour to be the mayor and serve on this council with you, building a solid foundation for a bright future. We leave Midland in a promising place in its history and with a brighter future,” said Strathearn.

“I wish the incoming council much success in continuing to build a community where our children and grandchildren can choose to call home," he said.

“I really want to point out that this community is poised, really poised, to take off,” he added, noting several key issues in the town’s immediate and far-ranging future.

“Midland Bay Landing has been a big issue throughout the election. … It’s one of the only things with respect to growth that this council and this town truly has control over. Treat it well. There’s potential for $100 million worth of infusion into the local economy, through capital expenditures on that waterfront. Unsurpassed access to that waterfront. I would ask you to be very careful how you treat that and the potential developer,” Strathearn advised.

Concluding with a quote from journalist Edward R. Murrow, Strathearn said, “Good night and good luck.”

With that, the 2018-22 council adjourned for the final time.

The inaugural meeting of the 2022-26 term of council for Midland is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 16 at 6 p.m.

Gordon, Contin and councillors-elect Beth Prost, Bill Meridis, Catherine MacDonald, Sheldon East, Jim Downer, Jamie-Lee Ball and Roberta Bald will comprise the new council.

Council meetings are held every third Wednesday, and can be attended in person or virtually through Zoom by contacting the clerk’s department of Midland Town Hall for a link to the meeting.

Council meetings can also be viewed on Rogers TV cable channel 53, or through the livestream on the Rogers TV website. Archives of council meetings are available through Rogers TV and on the Town of Midland’s YouTube channel.

Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, MidlandToday.ca