Barry's Bay -- No matter what the future holds for the municipal ship of state, 'it's stead as she goes' for Mark Willmer, the new mayor of Madawaska Valley Township, as he and his four new councillors were sworn in last Tuesday for their four-year term of office.
"As we start this term we face the global reality of fiscal uncertainty -- inflation rates are rising rapidly, and many people are finding it harder and harder to make ends meet," said the new mayor in his inaugural address.
Mayor Willmer went on to outline his number one priority.
"Council will need to balance our community's municipal service needs with the new fiscal reality if we are going to maintain our municipal assets and be sensitive to the concerns of our property taxpayers," he continued.
Mayor Willmer was joined in the inaugural meeting by his new council that includes Councillors Mary Blank, Shelley Maika, Joseph Olsheski and David Shulist. Outgoing councillor Ernie Peplinski was also on hand, as he officially remains next in line to join the new council should any of the current four councillors be unable to serve out their term ending in 2026.
All present were strongly supportive of Mayor Willmer's opening remarks when he said, "I'm glad the campaign is over -- four long months! It's way too long!"
Indeed, municipal election campaigns are now the longest of any government election in Canada.
He went on to say he was "very excited to have the opportunity to work with the four new councillors, a diverse group with experience, youth and many different ideas -- qualities that make for a productive and forward-thinking council."
In particular, he noted the experience of Mary Blank, a former councillor and deputy-reeve of the Village of Barry's Bay; Shelley Maika, who served on two previous MV councils; Joseph Olsheski, a young businessman, and, finally, David Shulist, who also served two previous terms.
"I am honoured and excited to be the fifth mayor of the Madawaska Valley," said Mayor Willmer "and I hope to live up to the standards set by the previous four -- Mayor Bill Schweig, Mayor John Hildebrandt, Mayor David Shulist and Mayor Kim Love.
"I look forward to leading the new council over the next four years," he added. "Together this council has over 48 years of combined council experience. Our experience and collective abilities are the foundation upon which we can build productive working relationships that are respectful of the public, our staff and each other. Each member of council may bring different perspectives, ideas and priorities to the job ahead, but there is one thing that we all share in common -- a resolute desire to work in the best interests of this community.
"I'd also like to offer my thanks to the previous council and recognize the significant contribution to the community by Mayor Kim Love … and Councillors (Carl) Bromwich and Ernie Peplinski. The last four years were not the easiest as council dealt with flooding and the pandemic, among other things.
"Madawaska Valley's future looks bright. Growth and new subdivisions are starting to develop throughout the township," added Mayor Willmer. "Our arena has been completely revitalized and will serve the community for the next 40 years.
"Yes, as we start this new term we will face many challenges," he said, before concluding. "However, I am confident that working together with staff, council will face the storms and weather the challenges while taking pride in contributing to a bright future for all of us. Madawaska Valley is a great place to live, work and play.”
One of the more curious moments in the swearing-in ceremony that raised both serious and humorous concern among some of the new council members came when they all had to repeat the provincially-mandated oath of elected office. Its wording is such that made it sound as though they were all going to be working for free.
The Oath reads: "I have not received and will not receive any payment or reward, or promise thereof, for the exercise of this office in a biased, corrupt or any improper manner. "
It's not until the very end of that long and sometimes muddy sentence that it become somewhat clear that the phrasing only refers to accepting under-the-table bribes!
Mercifully, we were told the council members will all be paid their appropriate remuneration.
Barry Conway, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader