Penetanguishene deputy mayor Anita Dubeau bids emotional farewell

Unexpected timing allowed for one of the nicest conclusions to a political career for a long-time council member.

The recent regular meeting of Penetanguishene council was also the final time several members of the electorate would interact with each other. However, absent from the meeting were vacationing Mayor Doug Leroux (returning next term as a councillor-elect), and Coun. Michel Mayotte and Debbie Levy; the usual nine members of council were reduced to six.

That put Deputy Mayor Anita Dubeau in charge.

“It is my pleasure,” Dubeau began. “My last council meeting after 27 years and who would’ve thought that I would get to chair? Just unfolded that way, I didn’t ask for it,” she added in good spirits.

“It’s now my pleasure to turn things,” paused Dubeau for comedic timing, “well I’m not so sure… because he is going to be making a few comments about the retiring councillors. So, Coun. Deputy Mayor -elect Dan LaRose, the floor is yours.”

After a lighthearted exchange between the incoming and outgoing deputy mayors, LaRose shared some words about the recent term of council.

“I wanted to say I always dread this night,” admitted LaRose. “It’s the end of our time together as council, and I must say that because of the pandemic it’s been one of the strangest and most challenging four-year terms I’ve ever been a part of. And I’m sure it’s been the same for everyone.”

LaRose thanked CAO Jeff Lees, Clerk Stacey Cooper, and many members of staff for their professionalism and dedication to making the town run smoothly.

“We didn’t always agree on our decisions, but they were all made in the best interests of the town,” said LaRose.

Each member of council received recognition, starting with the departing councillors. Jessica Klug “brought a breath of fresh air to council”; Jill St. Amant was asked to “stay involved in the community as you always have”; Brian Cummings was thanked as his “knowledge and understanding of the bylaw department and police services board was a very valuable asset and didn’t go unnoticed.”

Debbie Levy was to be missed “especially at the planning department”; and Michel Mayotte was called “a well-respected team player who has devoted several years to our council."

Coun. George Vadeboncoeur was re-elected for another term in the role. LaRose said to him, “you were a huge addition to council this term. Thank you for your wisdom and expertise that you brought with you.”

Brief words were given for Mayor Doug Leroux, “our chair who’s watching in Mexico or laying on the beach, I’m not sure which one,” said LaRose. “Thank you for your leadership, especially throughout the pandemic; you’ve always represented our town well.”

Finally, LaRose turned to address Dubeau personally.

“You deserve a medal for the amount of time and devotion and commitment you have given to our town,” expressed LaRose with emotion in his voice. “Your love for our community has shown with every decision you’ve ever made. It’s been an honour and a privilege to work with you. You’re one of my best friends, and enjoy your retirement.”

Residents in the council chambers applauded the remarks, as LaRose quipped with Dubeau in hopes that the comments were acceptable.

After the hour of council had reached its conclusion, Dubeau shared her final thoughts.

“If I may indulge everyone for just a moment, I just wanted to say thank you to everyone. This is my last meeting and certainly I will miss everyone, and I will miss the whole circle, I guess, that goes along with politics," said Dubeau. “But I’m not moving town,” Dubeau quickly added. “I’m still going to be involved in our wonderful community. Everybody knows that it is my second love; my first love, of course, is family. I’m very pleased to see the advancements that our community have made over the years, and certainly wanted to say goodbye – but just farewell, not goodbye.

“I’m still here and will stay involved in whatever capacity I can.”

The inaugural meeting of the 2022-2024 term of council for Penetanguishene is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 23 at 7 p.m.

Mayor-elect Douglas Rawson, Deputy Mayor-elect Dan LaRose, and Coun.-elect Bonita Desroches, Doug Leroux, Suzanne Marchand, George Vadeboncoeur, and Bill Waters will comprise the new council.

Meetings of Penetanguishene council are held on the second Wednesday of each month, and can be watched live on Rogers TV cable 53, or on the Rogers TV website.

Archives of council meetings are located on the Town of Penetanguishene YouTube channel.

Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, MidlandToday.ca