HURON COUNTY – The election for the new Warden of Huron County will be held virtually this year on Dec. 2.
The inaugural meeting will be significantly different from previous years as county council will adhere to guidelines set by the province and Health Unit, according to the motion put forward at the last council meeting on Nov. 4.
An in-person meeting would require renting a facility that will accommodate approximately 50 people while adhering provincial guidelines/processes, as well as meeting technology requirements.
A virtual meeting would use Zoom as the platform. There is a polling feature that will allow each member to vote anonymously. Different features will be used to make the meeting unique to this event.
The current warden, Jim Ginn is stepping aside, announcing in July that he would not be seeking re-election, opening the door for some fresh eyes to be the head of county council.
Ginn served as warden for two consecutive terms, from 2016 – 2020.
The Municipal Act, 2001, brought enhanced responsibilities and flexibility to local government and greater authority and accountability.
According to the Municipal Act, it is the duty of the head of council, or warden to:
-Act as chief executive officer of the municipality
-Preside over council meetings
-Provide leadership to the council
-Represent the municipality at official functions
-Carry out the duties of the head of council under this or any other Act
Two long-term residents, both local mayors, have decided to run for this position. The Dec. 3 election outcome will determine who the warden will be for the next two years.
Mayor of South Huron, George Finch, threw his hat into the ring in September. He wants to provide outstanding leadership, something he believes people in the county are looking for in a warden.
In an interview with Midwestern Newspapers, Finch laid out his plans for Huron County if he is elected.
Wingham Advance Times (WAT): What does the position of warden mean to you?
George Finch (GF): Well, the warden’s position is that you’re the head of council for the entire county…No different being the mayor of a small municipality. The warden makes sure the council runs smoothly, and those decisions are made properly.
WAT: What do you think people want from their warden?
GF: I think they want leadership. I think they want a warden to look at the overall fiscal picture, and they basically provide the needs of a county rather than the wants. Because once you start providing the wants of a county, that impacts different areas of the county, and then you’re outside your fiscal responsibility. You have to maintain fiscal accountability at all times.
WAT: What will be your first order of business if elected?
GF: I’m going to congratulate Councillor McNeil. Glenn is a great guy. If the council decides to have me in there, my first orders of business will be my three top priorities, homelessness, increase broadband across the county, and our policing issues with the detachments closing in Wingham and Exeter.
WAT: What are you thinking about in regards to the policing issues?
GF: My concern is that they need community police offices in those areas, Wingham and Exeter. They definitely need someplace for the officers to go to and use the bathroom, meet with people, and have their breaks. They are 12-hour shifts, and the office is half an hour away from Wingham and from Exeter, each way. So, therefore, it’s quite a distance to travel.
They’re providing a service, and when you remove the detachments that they did without public input, that’s a concern for me.
On Nov. 30, 2018, the OPP stated to CTV News that they would be providing community police offices in Exeter and Wingham that have not come true yet.
We’re hopeful that if we get money to be investing in infrastructure, funding, and so on, that will provide a small community police office in that facility. We has been told that we’ve received the funding.
WAT: What is your driving motive?
GF: You know, if you don’t like the way things are being done, you jump into the fray, and you start making change. And that’s why I got in as the mayor here in South Huron because I didn’t like the way things are being done. I thought I could make a difference. At the county level, again the same thing, if I see something I don’t like or outside of our realm, I would speak up and say something about that. So, my driving motive is just to make sure that we are accountable to the people of Huron County.
WAT: Do you anticipate making any changes?
GF: No, if I was making any changes, they would just more or less be things that make it easier for me to navigate. But, as far as changes in council, I can’t really do that without the support of council. So, there will be no drastic changes. Warden Ginn has done a tremendous job, quite honestly. Big shoes to fill for sure. He’s left a really good legacy.
WAT: In regards to COVID-19, up to now, the county has followed the guidelines set out by the public health units and by the government. If an outbreak were to occur, what additional measures are you prepared to take?
GF: Well, we would do whatever is required to make sure that people are safe. Our greatest responsibility, as you know, is the safety of the public and the people who elected us. So, we would follow the guidelines again of the Huron Perth Public Health unit and work really closely with them to make sure that we can control any outbreaks.
WAT: What is something about yourself that people may not know?
GF: I don’t know if people know, but I’m a peer mentor for Children’s Hospital of South Western Ontario for families living with type one diabetic children.
I have three kids in my household. One’s moved away now and living in Sault Ste. Marie. I have a son who lives with us, too. And he’s autistic and diabetic. My oldest son is diabetic also. And once they were diagnosed, I said, we’ve got to do something to help other families. So, my wife and I jumped in, and we help out with people facing type one diabetic issues.
Mayor of Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh, (ACW) Glen McNeil, announced his intention to run for warden in August. He firmly believes that people are looking for leadership and that respect is very, very important.
WAT: What does the position of warden mean to you?
GM: The position of warden of Huron County is that of representing not only Huron County council, however Huron County in totality, abroad. And when I say abroad, in western Ontario, throughout Ontario. Huron County is a tremendous county. We have many attributes. One of those attributes is the fact that Huron County is a leading county of farm cash receipts of any county in Ontario. Agriculture is very important to this county.
WAT: What do you think people want from their warden?
GM: I would suggest all individuals look for leadership.
The warden of Huron County is expected to be respectful, to conduct themselves appropriately at all functions, and in representing and promoting Huron County.
Any of us in society just look for direction. And there are so many ways that that is given. One of the main things is walking the talk and communicating, doing it effectively, and in a manner accepted by all of society. So, I would say respect is very, very important.
WAT: What will be your first order of business if elected and why?
GM: Well, I guess the first place I would start is to thank our outgoing warden, Jim Ginn. Jim and his wife, Brenda, have represented here in the county very admirably and respectfully in their term as warden. Jim has built relationships with other counties, with other government levels, which is very effective and necessary in moving forward.
So, it would be to continue the great work that Jim has done in his term as warden and further promote our county.
There are many individuals seeking to move out of high-density areas, be it Kitchener, London, or Toronto, and move to a less densely populated place.
Because Huron County has 80 km of lakeshore, we are exceptionally well-positioned to attract a lot of individuals…to be new residents, contribute to our workforce, and contribute to the betterment of Huron County. So, I think we’re in a really good place.
WAT: What is your driving motive in your pursuit of this position?
GM: The sole intent of me putting my name forward was to give back to here in the county. I was born and raised here, I married my wife, and we operate our business here in Huron County. Its residents have been really good to our family. This is an opportunity for me to give back to Huron County in any way that I can.
I have volunteered, and I continue to do that at the Goderich Hospital. I’m the first vice-chair of the board of directors. And in that volunteer capacity, again, it’s a way I can give back.
When we are asked to make decisions in the best interests of all residents in the hospital, I do that with the mindset of what is best for the care of our residents. I can walk out of that hospital and tell myself in my mind, I’ve made the best decisions for the individuals that can’t walk out.
WAT: In regards to COVID-19 up to now, the county has followed the guidelines set out by the public health unit and by the government. If an outbreak were to occur what additional measures are you prepared to take?
GM: In our municipality of ACW, as mayor, I declared a state of emergency back in April when this broke out. The reason I did that was to emphasize to our residents the need to be vigilant, the seriousness of the situation to keep our residents safe. And I would continue to do that on a county level.
We have not met in person since the onset of COVID and it is not our intention to do so until the incidents drop via a vaccine or whatever the appropriate procedures are at that time. We as county council fully respect and look forward to, again, the directives from our medical officer of health, Miriam Klassen, and also from the provincial government in this regard. To be vigilant is very, very important.
WAT: What is something interesting about yourself that people may not know?
GM: I’ve been very blessed in my life. I have been provided opportunities that I’ve been really fortunate with.
I have been a past president of both Ontario Holsteins and Holstein Canada. We hosted a world conference in 2012. We welcomed the world to Canada and specifically Ontario, and that was an amazing event.
The interaction that I’ve been able to have with individuals from all over the world is very humbling.
I was a 4H leader for 20 years, and I really value working with the youth. 4H shows young people the importance and the ability of a thought process. For example, when we’re judging a class of dairy cattle, why do you prefer this animal over another animal? And you verbalize those comments, or you organize your thoughts in a very respectful way and putting forth your viewpoint.
The interaction that 4H has with other like-minded young people has been very beneficial in society. When any organization is looking for employees and whether the particular applicant has been involved in the program or a graduate of it, it absolutely speaks volumes to their character, work ethic, and thought process.
Cory Bilyea, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wingham Advance Times