Eganville – Bonnechere Valley Mayor Jennifer Murphy, first elected in 2010, is facing her toughest challenge yet with three opponents but remains committed to continuing to serve the residents of her community.
“I’m running because I love the job and I believe there is more that I can give to it,” she said.
An outgoing people person, she enjoys meeting those in the community and will be going door-to-door campaigning. As well, she said the role of mayor requires a commitment and involvement she is prepared to give.
“The job has evolved substantially over the last 12 years,” she said. “Being the mayor is not just a title, it is a full-time job if done appropriately.”
A newbie politician when elected mayor in 2010, she has gone back to face the voters in 2014 when she was challenged for the position and then was acclaimed in 2018. This year she is facing a challenge from a former mayor, former councillor and a newbie politician.
“Competition is good,” she said. “We all come with different ideas. It will be up to the ratepayers of Bonnechere Valley to decide.”
An important facet of the role of mayor for her is advocating for the municipality and she noted she has been successful in many delegations with provincial ministers over the years including recently negotiating winter maintenance for the Connecting Link, which saved approximately $50,000 per season and also put less pressure on the roads crew eliminating the need for an overnight shift.
Advocating for the local Rural and Remote Mental Health and Addiction Initiative is especially dear to her heart. She has also been successful in advocating for retaining the Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund, which has been confirmed for 2023, and is a major source of funding for the township. Other advocacy areas including Renfrew County VTAC (Virtual Triage Assessment Centre), which has also seen confirmed funding for 2023, and advocating for red tape reduction.
Mayor Murphy said moving forward she is concerned about more downloads from the province and is strongly opposed to this.
In terms of looking forward, she excited about a new tourism strategy in the post-pandemic age. The township has a grant to look at a new tourism strategy and will be focusing on how to attract people to the community.
“To boost our local economy and remind people about our beautiful resources in Bonnechere Valley,” she said, noting this is a time of recovery after two very hard years.
Mayor Murphy said there are many post-pandemic challenges the community is facing which she will address, such as mental health issues, addiction issues, homelessness, affordable housing, getting people active again, labour shortages and more.
“This will all need to be addressed in the coming months and years,” she said. “It is imperative that we have a solid council with a strong voice with the province to ensure that our residents have access to the resources they need.
“Now more than ever municipalities must advocate for their residents amid mounting budget pressures,” she said. “Our partnership with the province is essential. Lobbying the provincial government for the needs of Bonnechere Valley is one of my favourite parts of this job.”
The township has also been successful in grants in many areas, including a recent one for accessibility at the Curling Club, she said.
There is also a renewed focus on education across Canada about issues with First Nations, reconciliation and the lasting legacy of residential schools, and BV is part of that working on healing, education and reconciliation. In a few weeks, on October 1st, the permanent Truth and Reconciliation Garden in Eganville will be officially opened.
“Our relationship with our First Nation neighbour is of utmost importance,” she said.
In looking back on her record, Mayor Murphy noted council kept tax increases at a minimum every year except one, which was a year with a pay equity complaint.
“Council comes prepared to budget meetings and are willing to make hard decisions while still maintaining levels of service,” she said.
During her time as mayor, she has enjoyed working with each team of council and the CAO, describing the role as one of collaboration and teamwork.
She is proud of her record of accomplishment as mayor, including the establishment of the Household Hazardous Waste Depot and the millions of dollars in road infrastructure projects, many which were funded through grants. The important thing is serving the community, she stressed.
“I love getting out and meeting with people and hearing their concerns,” she said, adding she prides herself on being very accessible to residents.
Locally, she has volunteered with the Eganville and Area Community Development Group, helping with the development of McRae Park and the newly installed fishing dock. She is also a member of the Bonnechere Valley Health Committee, which was successful in partnering with ConnectWell for an additional Nurse Practitioner in Eganville.
Other volunteer efforts include the Bonnechere Valley Youth Action Committee, including scavenger hunts and After School Learning sessions at the Youth Centre.
Her financial background is also coming into play in her role as the chair of finance for the Ontario Winter Games to be held next year in the county.
Mayor Murphy said while her priority is Bonnechere Valley, an important part of the role is to be a member of Renfrew County council. She is a three-term former warden and is currently the chair of the Finance and Administration Committee. She has served on every committee at county council.
“County council is a very important part of the mayor’s job,” she said. “Bonnechere Valley residents pay substantial taxes to the upper tier, and it is imperative that they have strong representation at the county level. Also relaying what is happening at the county to our local council is of utmost importance.”
As well, her role has enabled her to have regional connections and responsibilities. She is currently a board member with the Eastern Ontario Regional Network where she serves as chair of the Finance Committee. She is also a board member on the Renfrew County and District Health Unit and the Eastern Ontario Leadership Council. These connections are all an important part of the role of mayor, she stressed.
Mayor Murphy and her husband, Dave, moved from Toronto to their hobby farm outside of Eganville in 2000. Her family background is also local, something she is very proud of. They opened Murphy's Auto Service in Renfrew in 2001 and continue to operate it.
“We chose to live here because of our love for the area,” she added.
Being accessible to ratepayers is important to her and she said she is always reachable, which is an important part of the job.
Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader