'Quite a ride': Tiny council bids adieu in final meeting of term

During the last regular meeting of Tiny Township council, all elected members and the CAO expressed praise for the past years spent serving as co-workers for the municipality.

Mayor George Cornell started off the concluding remarks by thanking those who shared the chambers with him, extending the gratitude to staff and to residents.

“It’s been quite a ride the past four years,” said Cornell, who was first elected to council in 2010 but did not seek re-election this year. “A rather unique experience with the global pandemic and a number of other challenges. I really appreciate the support and the commitment to the community that each one of you and each one of us has brought to the table.

“I think most importantly, we’ve deliberated in a very respectful and informed manner and as a result have been able to make some excellent decisions on behalf of our community as a whole and move the business of the community forward.”

Cornell used the IT department as a prime example of how the municipality adapted to navigate unexpected woes; moments before the speeches, technical difficulties prompted emergency measures by the IT department to return council to working order.

Coun. Gibb Wishart, having been recognized for 26 years of municipal involvement, thanked council and staff but took his time to make a request of the upcoming council-elect when they take the reins.

“I want to pass something on to the next council that I think is really critical,” Wishart said, calling out an instance where a staff member relocated to a different location because of the lack of affordable housing in Tiny. “He’s already got a job in the municipality up there doing basically what he did here.

“But it just frustrates me that this situation of affordable housing has just gone out of sight.”

Noting that affordable housing was “a pet peeve” of Deputy Mayor Steffen Walma who will be returning next term in the role of councillor, Wishart openly requested that the next council give weight to the issue.

“If there’s some way that I can contribute as a farm owner, let me know,” added Wishart,” because we’ve got to do something. It’s more than just desperate. It’s our kids, they won’t be able to live here.”

Coun. Cindy Hastings kept her remarks short, thanking fellow council members while extending a large measure of appreciation to staff.

“I thank council for the respectful conversations we’ve had. I haven’t always agreed with all of you, but I appreciate the level of respect that we always had at the table,” said Hastings.

“I hope people realize that staff really do care about the municipality; I certainly appreciate your help. I know sometimes we’ve asked for things and you’ve wanted to roll your eyes,” she added with a laugh as CAO Robert Lamb and other members on the virtual meeting gave large smiles.

“It’s been an honour the last eight years to serve. I’m not going away, I’m just not going to be sitting at the table anymore. I’ll be around,” Hastings concluded.

Newcomer Coun. John Bryant, who came in as councillor a year prior to fill the seat vacated by former council member Tony Mintoff, briefly shared his experiences with council and staff. He began with his observations during his failed bid for deputy mayor in the October municipal elections.

“During the campaign, it was eye-opening,” Bryant explained. “It was totally enjoyable; I’ve never done a campaign, and just to get out and talk to the people and see their issues, I’d say 99 per cent of the people I met were very positive.

“They love Tiny, their best interest is in Tiny. I think they see the difficulties in trying to manage a township.

“I certainly enjoyed my time here, and let’s see what the future holds,” he added.

Walma echoed appreciation for fellow council and staff.

“Honestly, I have to say a huge thank you first to my colleagues at the table right now. It’s been an absolute pleasure working with each of you; the respect I hold for each of you is enormous. The love you have for the community, the dedication you’ve had for the community. I’ve learned so much from each of you; Gibb, Cindy, George, John. It was an absolute pleasure.

“I’m very happy to be back, and I’m hoping that each of you will be back in a different capacity in some way or another, whether it’s a committee or an advisor. I’m sure I have all of your phone numbers, I will definitely be in contact with numerous items.

“And Gibb, I’ll take you up on that affordable housing thing; you’re right, it’s a huge issue that we need to tackle, and I’d love to have you on board,” Walma said with acknowledgement from Wishart.

There was an additional nod to staff from Walma about their ability to control the interesting suggestions posed to municipal issues. “Your leadership has been fantastic; your guidance – sometimes I get a little off-track, and you guys are good at pulling me back without demotivating me.”

CAO Lamb followed up with a collective appreciation from staff to council members, reiterating the respectful working environment and strong relationships needed to run the municipality.

“It needs to be a partnership of action where council sets the policy and we go out and implement it, and council allowed us to go and be creative and find ways to do things,” said Lamb. “And those are the joys of municipal politics. There isn’t just one way to do things. It’s a dialogue.

He added a personal thanks for bringing him in as CAO nearly two years ago.

“I really want to thank you for the respect that you showed all of the staff of the municipality; that doesn’t happen in a lot of jurisdictions and it has been a great environment for us and our senior management to be able to work under. Under your leadership, Mayor Cornell, we want to thank all of council for that.”

A final note from Cornell about community engagement being something to look forward with the new council-elect preceded the conclusion of the regular meeting.

The inaugural meeting of the 2022-2024 term of council for Tiny Township is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 23 at 9 a.m.

Mayor-elect David Evans, Deputy Mayor-elect Sean Miskimins, and Coun.-elect Dave Brunelle, Kelly Peter Helowka, and Steffen Walma will comprise the new council.

Archives of council meetings are available to view on Tiny Township’s YouTube channel.

Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, MidlandToday.ca