The final council meeting of the 2014-18 term had a distinctly valedictory tone as the six departing and two remaining members looked back on their years in office with a mix of nostalgia and celebration.
Taking advantage of the agenda’s “Inquiries” phase, each member took the opportunity to congratulate others – colleagues past and present and city staff – for their accomplishments and service to Sarnia.
The speeches inadvertently pointed out that the 2018 municipal election marked the end of an era, one in which council’s membership had been remarkably stable for the past dozen years or more.
There were a few changes along the way to 2018, but there remained a core of increasingly experienced councillors – Dave Boushy, Andy Bruziewicz, Anne Marie Gillis, Mike Kelch, Bev MacDougall – who were re-elected in 2006, 2010, and 2014, and who provided steady and responsible government.
There were, of course, disagreements on issues, and sometimes those differences may have been driven more by personality than policy. But generally, until 2014, there had been little change in the make-up of a conscientious council that worked with one another more or less harmoniously.
In the spirit of the final session of the 2014-2018 term, we can see the city has lost six dedicated individuals, each having her or his own particular strengths.
Andy Bruziewicz was a master of detail with a prodigious memory and an unflagging interest in his fellow citizens. Mike Kelch, whose favourite phrase seemed to be “I get it,” approached city business objectively and tried to bridge the differences between colleagues. Matt Mitro was always forthright and ready to challenge the status quo.
All three of the women leaving public service were notably conscientious in fulfilling their roles as councillors.
Cindy Scholten was a champion of the technological advances needed to modernize city business. Ann Marie Gillis tirelessly promoted Sarnia and made Communities In Bloom an institution and movement that did much to build its reputation and the pride of its citizens. Bev MacDougall was always thoroughly prepared for the job and could be counted on to have done her homework meticulously, researching relevant information and personally visiting the city neighbourhoods impacted by council decisions.
Did these six men and women have faults and make mistakes? Of course. But however residents might regard them, the city has lost six strong voices with many cumulative years of political experience and corporate memory.
Others may choose to dwell upon the faults and foibles of these six, but for now, let’s remember their courage, dedication, and service with gratitude and grace.
Bryan Trothen is a long-time observer of city politics