Politicians and staff leaving the municipal world

Eganville – Politicians and staff are leaving the municipal world and the reasons are complex.

“The job is not easy, so that once a month I get a ‘thank you note’ I kind of focus all my energy on that” said Mayor Jennifer Murphy last Tuesday during council. “And try to forget about the nastiness on social media because we cancelled the youth dance…”

However, with over a decade in politics, she feels there are multiple factors affecting the rash of resignations in the municipal world recently, especially from members of council.

“It is not just the stress, the nastiness,” she said, but pressures on council from various expectations and other factors including ongoing provincial legislation being brought down.

Council heard harassment was a topic at a recent meeting attended by CAO Annette Gilchrist. She told council there appears to be a lot of resignations of council members at present.

“There are a lot of resignations lately, more of council than staff,” she said. “It used to be a lot going on with staff but it seems to have taken a turn now that it is council members who are receiving a lot of pushback and harassment.”

This is coming from other councillors and the public, she said.

“There is a feeling of incivility,” she said. “I think it is maybe part of the mental health crisis, part of the economy; I am not sure what is causing it.”

“The fact is everybody needs to be respected,” Ms. Gilchrist said.

There is also a lot of pressure on staff and council because of the rapid changes coming from the province, said Ms. Gilchrist.

“Unbelievable pressures and constant change. The speed of provincial regulation,” she said.

In speaking with veterans in the municipal world, they all feel the pressure, she said.

“They have never seen a government move this fast before and make this many changes,” she said. “It is hard to keep up.”

This puts a lot of pressure on staff, she said.

Mayor Murphy said she noticed a real difference from when she first came on council over a decade ago. The speed of change is challenging at the municipal level, but this is not the first time she has seen this, she noted.

“In 2014, with the previous Liberal government we said exactly the same thing,” she said.

There was work when she first started as mayor but it then became more challenging, she said.

“The job really became a job to keep up,” she said.

There was a pressure on municipal politicians to advocate with the province and explain when policies don’t make sense, she said.

“At some point we have to say, ‘we can’t keep up’,” she said.

Mayor Murphy said she is cognizant there have been a lot of council members resigning in various municipalities.

“Just throwing up their hands and saying, ‘it is too much’,’” she said.

They are feeling the pressures of social media, phone calls, emails, she said.

“Everybody is nasty and mean,” she said.

However, many times council members are placed under unrealistic expectations, she feels.

“They don’t necessarily know the constraints we are put under,” she said.

The mayor said municipal councils are reeling with the regulations from the province.

“If left to our own devices, we would muddle through and make the best decisions for our community,” she said.

“I don’t think it is only the stress of the constituents, the nastiness, the threats, I think there is so much that goes into these jobs that you might not have known when you ran for office,” she said.

The limitations of the job are vast and people need to understand that, she said.

Councillor Tracey Sanderson said it appears Mayor Murphy gets most of the nastiness directed at her on social media.

“I get a lot of it,” the mayor said.

Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader