Shelley Ann Bentley took a risk when she quit her nursing job after 28 years in health care to run for mayor of Haldimand County.
But the gamble paid off, as the Selkirk resident defeated incumbent Ken Hewitt and held off a close challenge from entrepreneur Jake Vandendool to win the top job.
As she makes her debut on the political stage, Bentley said she will use the skills honed as a psychiatric nurse and union executive at St. Joseph’s Healthcare in Hamilton.
“I think (nursing) taught me empathy and compassion,” Bentley, 54, told The Spectator.
As a member of her union’s leadership team, she gained valuable experience in collective bargaining.
“I have good communication skills and listening skills,” she said. “I advocated for my patients and my coworkers, and I will bring that forward to the council table.”
The youngest of six children, Bentley was born in Mount Hope and moved to Haldimand as a child, spending summers at her sister’s hobby farm in Peacock Point. That rural upbringing instilled in her an appreciation for “family values and a sense of community” that she passed on to her four children, a stepdaughter and a young grandson.
“We have great small-town values and all our small towns have great events to attend,” Bentley said, noting Haldimand appeals to year-round residents and summer cottagers alike.
“I love our shores of Lake Erie, all the way from Hoover’s Marina to Hippo’s,” said Bentley, who reminisced about fishing trips on her family’s boat.
“Or we’d take it down to the docks in Port Maitland and cruise up the river,” she said. “We have lots to offer in Haldimand County. The little shops and restaurants along the way are wonderful places.”
As mayor, Bentley said she will focus on ensuring a fair shake for every community within Haldimand’s borders.
“I would like all our small towns to be treated equally by Haldimand County,” she said.
“I appreciate everybody that has supported me along the way, and I look forward to representing Haldimand constituents in a positive manner.”
J.P. Antonacci, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator