He’s the gentleman in the tweed suit who has listened intently from the public gallery at City Hall for the past 60 years.
His attendance record is astonishing.
Since 1955, Sarnia’s Nick Monsour has seldom missed a local council meeting. That’s at least 1,440 meetings at which he spent hours following the discussion, debates and decisions on municipal business.
“It’s been my philosophy all my life to support council by attending,” said Monsour who turned 90 in October.
Reading about or watching what happens on television doesn’t give him sufficient sense of what happens, he says. It’s not like being there.
“I feel that if you are present, you have a one-on-one with the people making comments. If you have concerns, you can talk to the councillors or staff.”
Monsour says he wishes more people sat in the gallery. On pivotal issues council chambers can be packed, but more often Monsour is among a handful of three or four observers and a table of reporters.
“In a way it’s sad that sometimes I’m on my own,” he said.
Bill Nelson was mayor when Monsour arrived in Sarnia in 1954 to take a job as a mechanical engineer at Polymer Corporation.
“There was an interesting guy,” he said. “He wanted taxes low and he didn’t want to spend anything. It created a lot of controversy.”
Monsour has watched nine mayors at work over 60 years. Some have impressed him more than others, but he’s not one to criticize.
“I build on the positive side. We have so much to be thankful for,” he said. Instead, he compliments those he liked.
“Andy Brandt, Ron Gordon and Mike Bradley have all done a good job. In fact, all the more recent mayors have been good,” said Monsour.
“The City of Sarnia is a success story. We’ve got so much beauty here with our parks and our waterfront.
“I was concerned when they found contamination in Centennial Park but they’re cleaning it up. They are always progressing.”
Not only has Monsour – a widower and father of four – gone to most council meetings over six decades, he is among the few citizens who pick up council agendas and a thick stack of supporting documents every two weeks.
“I review it all,” he said. “I like to know what new developments are coming and all the special activities in the city.”
In particular, the engineer who has been retired now for 25 years pays attention to what’s happening with the city’s infrastructure.
“In engineering, we work as a team. At council, you’ll always get someone who doesn’t favour an item but they listen to the others and it gets resolved. City council needs the same teamwork as the engineers,” he said.
Monsour especially likes the input of female politicians.
“I’m glad we have women on council,” he said. “I believe we need more women in government because of their honesty and their ability to deal with the details. They are often more sensible.”
Monsour also attends Lambton County council meetings in Wyoming, and when he flies to Florida for his annual vacation, the councillors in the City of Lakeland know him as well.
“I am well received there,” Monsour said with a smile. “As a matter of fact, they greet me like they do here. In Florida, there aren’t great quantities of people watching council either.
“If more people came out every now and again, it would help them understand the people they vote onto council.”