CONMEE, ONT. — It’ll certainly be big shoes to fill.
Sheila Maxwell, the deputy mayor of Conmee Township, will take over the mayor’s mantle on July 26 with the deputy mayor’s title going to longtime Conmee Coun. Bob MacMaster.
Maxwell is replacing a familiar face in Conmee politics — newly elected Conservative MPP Kevin Holland, who was ushered in to represent Thunder Bay-Atikokan on June 2.
Holland brings 31 years of experience to his new job serving the public as he was a volunteer firefighter, councillor and eventual mayor over three decades putting Conmee’s name on the map.
It’s been a whirlwind process over the past six weeks for Maxwell taking over, but credits the calming influence of the veteran Holland to make it seem effortless.
“(The transition) was quite smooth,” admitted Maxwell, who will be having an award recognition reception for Holland on July 20. “(Holland) knew about the provincial election for awhile. When he got his nomination, he made sure everything was in place. He had spoken about the election and the possibility of actually winning it.
“If he was elected, then there would be a smooth transition for the residents and the business that was at hand. The residents are slowly hearing about me stepping up now. The residents know me a lot because I’ve been on the social committees in the township for eight years. They know me because I’m in the kitchen cooking. I’ve been involved in lots of events in the township.”
Usually with Holland right by her side. Attending events and out-of-town conferences with the veteran politician has been a valuable learning experience.
“(Holland) has always had a really strong voice,” said Maxwell, who has been deputy mayor for the past 18 months. “He knows what he’s talking about. He’s been advocating for Northwestern Ontario for a long time for small, rural communities.
“His name is out there and he’s gotten well known for being like that. Eight years ago, Conmee was not as known. We’d go to a conference and people would ask, ‘Where’s Conmee?’ And we’d say, ‘30 kilometres west of Thunder Bay.’ Now it’s ‘Conmee? Oh, Kevin Holland.’ He did make a name for himself.”
Maxwell, who works for the Lakehead Board of Education as a student support professional, is now a seasoned political veteran as well and believes she can bring plenty to the political arena.
“I think with the experience that I’ve had over eight years as a councillor will help,” Maxwell said. “All council members have a say on what goes on. We don’t make decisions solely on one person. It’s a decision as a council.
“I have a sense of more responsibility, now sitting at the front of that table, I have a little bit more responsibility to the residents. . . . Going forward, I believe the residents are going to be fine with me pressing on.”
With municipal elections taking place on Oct. 24 and currently being opposed by Suzanne Huot for the mayor’s seat, Maxwell is confident this isn’t just going to be a summer job.
“I have three months to get my feet wet and, hopefully, keep them wet,” laughed Maxwell, who is also a foster parent. “I hope things go well. I’m not worried in the near future and I think that the next four years will be fun, exciting, challenging and I’m hoping I can do everything that I can possibly do for the residents. Hopefully, I’ll be in that seat to do that.”
At the July 13 council meeting at Conmee Hall, Maxwell oversaw volunteer firefighter Mark Kukkee become appointed as the new deputy fire chief, replacing Gary White, who retired in January.
John Nagy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal