The new councillors for the Town of The Blue Mountains are excited and anxious to get to work.
With the election complete, incumbent councillor Paula Hope was re-elected and the new councillors are: Gail Ardiel, Alex Maxwell, Shawn McKinlay and June Porter. The five councillors will join new mayor Andrea Matrosovs and incumbent deputy mayor Peter Bordignon to form the new council for the community. The new council will be sworn in on Nov. 21.
CollingwoodToday spoke to the newly elected councillors two days after the election results were announced and they say they are ready for the challenge of governing the town for the next four years.
New councillor Alex Maxwell returns to local government many years after serving on Thornbury council prior to amalgamation.
“I feel honoured. It’s going to be a huge learning curve. We have some interesting times coming up here,” said Maxwell. “I think it’s going to be good.”
Maxwell said council will have a big job overseeing continued growth and change in the community.
“It’s a lot different now. How are we going to manage this transformation to a more urban community away from being rural?” Maxwell said, noting that newcomers are moving to The Blue Mountains for the lifestyle and natural assets of the town. “How do we ensure we have enough parks, green space and access to the waterfront? How do we manage that transition? That’s going to be a challenge.”
Maxwell said he is grateful for the opportunity to serve the public and the chance to make positive change in the community.
“I’m looking forward to the possibility of improving things for everybody,” he said.
At 37-years-old, Shawn McKinlay is the youngest member of the new council. McKinlay said he can’t wait to get to work serving the community.
“I still can’t believe it. What an incredible adventure. The people have spoken and that’s cool. I didn’t know I knew 2,500 people,” McKinlay said with a laugh. “It shows a vote of confidence in me and I will do my very best.”
McKinlay commended town staff for their hard work during the election period. He said he felt it was important to recognize the staff’s efforts during the campaign period.
“It’s not just about us candidates. Town staff have been working their tails off,” he said.
McKinlay said he is anxious to get to know his fellow councillors now that the votes have been counted and his first priority will be getting a handle on all the reading he will have to do as he gets fully immersed in the job.
“On the campaign, there isn’t much time for socializing and I’m a social guy. I’m looking forward to getting to know everybody,” he said. “I know there is a lot to read and I will look to get started, that’s my number one thing. I understand and respect the democratic process, I know I won’t be setting the world on fire with a bunch of changes at the start.”
New councillor June Porter ran four years ago and narrowly missed being elected to council then, she was thrilled with the support from the public this time.
“I was just amazed at the support and the vote count, to get that kind of statement from the town is amazing and with that comes a responsibility to deliver. I take that very seriously. The town has put a lot of faith in me,” said Porter. “I’m willing to roll up my sleeves and work for them. I’m very excited. It will be exciting to work with a team of women.”
Porter said the upcoming budget for 2023 and changes coming from the provincial government will be issues to deal with for the new council and she is excited to be working with her new colleagues.
“(The new council) brings a range of skills and knowledge. It will be a nice blend,” she said. “It will be interesting to see how our roles unfold.”
Gail Ardiel is returning as a councillor after a four-year absence. The coming term will be her sixth on The Blue Mountains council. Ardiel has plenty of experience and is ready to get started.
“I feel really good. I’m proud people have voted and they voted the way they wanted to. It’s great and now let’s get to work. I can hardly wait to get sworn in on Nov. 21,” said Ardiel. “There is a lot of work to be done.”
Ardiel said a priority for her will be reviewing the number of town committees. She feels there are too many and the total could be reduced.
“As a whole, I think we need to go through the committees with the CAO and decide what is necessary,” she said. “It’s time we go back and re-look at all the committees and cut down.”
Ardiel also said she would like to get a lobbyist registry in place for The Blue Mountains and said she is happy to offer her past experience to assist the new members of council in any way she can as they adjust to their new responsibilities.
“I’m happy to give them a helping hand wherever I can. It can take almost four years to really get the hang of it,” said Ardiel.
When all the dust cleared and the ballots were counted, incumbent councillor Paula Hope topped the polls in The Blue Mountains.
“I’m very, very happy about the results and the mandate myself and my colleagues have been given. It’s very humbling,” said Hope. “I’m pretty excited and I’m delighted at our diversity.”
Hope said she feels the public sent a clear message during the election.
“They want a council that is respectful and collaborative,” she said. “I think you will find it will be a highly collaborative team. There is more experience on this council than the last one. It’s a very different council from the 2018 council.”
Hope said with the experience being brought to the table, the new council can come out of the gate flying.
“There are a lot of things that will be coming up. We can do a lot in the first 100 days. We can hit the ground running,” she said.
Her priority will be to complete the official plan review process for the community. Hope said during the campaign she highlighted that The Blue Mountains has already met or exceeded goals for housing set by Grey County and the province. She said this gives the town the opportunity to be careful and smart about how it grows.
“Sustainability, respecting the environment and our natural infrastructure and developing well are priorities,” she said.
Hope said “defining the character we all love and want to preserve” will be the next step in the official plan review process.
“I will do everything I can to make sure the Official Plan is bullet-proof and part of that is bringing in a lot more definition,” she said.
Jennifer Golletz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CollingwoodToday.ca