West Elgin mourns Duncan McPhail, 'pillar of community, powerful change-agent'

Duncan McPhail, who spent decades in municipal politics and was the first mayor of West Elgin, is being mourned by officials and colleagues.

The mayor and deputy warden of Elgin County died Saturday, municipal officials announced in a statement Monday.

McPhail was a man of conviction and a "powerful change-agent" for West Elgin, a rural municipality southwest of London, said Magda Badura, its top administrator.

"He was a man whose work touched the lives of countless individuals, and I am grateful that I was fortunate to learn from his wisdom and guidance, which he selflessly offered until the very end," Badura wrote on social media.

McPhail entered municipal politics in 1988 when elected to Aldborough Township council, where he served as councillor and deputy reeve. Ten years later, he became the first mayor of West Elgin.

McPhail returned to the post in 2018 and was acclaimed mayor in the last election.

A farmer, McPhail was a "pillar of the community" who participated in several committees and events during the years, deputy mayor Richard Leatham said.

He was a member of the West Elgin community centre board of management, the two-time chair of the Tri-County Water board and chair of the Four Counties transportation advisory committee. McPhail also was chair when Elgin County hosted the International Plowing Match in 2010.

McPhail's advocacy and leadership extended beyond West Elgin. He was part of Elgin County council for 17 years, serving as warden in 2000, 2001 and 2019 before being appointed deputy warden in 2021 and again during the last two years.

"We will remember Duncan as a trailblazer whose service to our community will remain an inspiration to all of us for years to come," Ed Ketchabaw, the county's warden, said in a statement.

"He leaves behind an incredible legacy and will be missed by staff, county councillors and the community."

Politicians across the London region paid tribute to the mayor on social media following news of his death.

"A very sad day. Duncan will be so missed," Elgin-Middlesex-London Conservative MP Karen Vecchio wrote on Facebook, where she shared photos of her and McPhail from events during the years.

Kelly Elliott, a rural advocate and former deputy mayor of Thames Centre, wrote on social media that he "had a larger than life laugh" and was a "staunch supporter" of Elgin County.

McPhail was a husband, father and grandfather.

The flags at Elgin County-operated facilities have been lowered to half-mast to honour him. Residents are encouraged to share their sympathies in a book available in the lobby of the county's administration building at 450 Sunset Dr. in St. Thomas.

Details about the funeral and visitation have not yet been released.

West Elgin officials invited residents to place a candle in their window until the funeral to remember McPhail.

"Let's light up West Elgin for our mayor and remember the light he was for our community," they wrote on Facebook.



Calvi Leon, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press