A new Council was sworn in December 3, 2018, complete with four new Councillors and a new mayor, all eager for change. Mayor Nancy Peckford, Deputy Mayor Jim McManaman and Councillors John Barclay, Doreen O’Sullivan and Kristin Strackerjan were asked to reflect back on their accomplishments, challenges and issues they are most interested in addressing. Here’s what they said.
Five strong and different personalities came together after the election to develop the Council Work Plan, a collaborative process that created a clear and concise expression of what each of us brought to the table. This process provided structure for the remaining term, and in the process provided Council solidarity and collaboration on the “difficult” files.
The Council Work Plan is a Strategic document designed to provide a clear path for Council, staff and directors, and will create the foundation for operational work plans, consistent messaging and decision-making.
“The process of developing a Council Work Plan provided Council with an excellent opportunity to get to know one another better, and identify some shared priorities and approaches. While we all have slightly different ways of seeing our community, our priorities are remarkably similar,” noted Mayor Peckford.
Kristin Strackerjan observed, “I was not sworn in with the rest of the Council on December 3, which gave me the opportunity to observe them in their early days, without being directly implicated in the process, decisions or deliberations. It was clear from the outset that this Council was going to do things differently. They were going to talk about decisions openly, express differing opinions freely and make change happen. This was true then and is true now. I have since joined this amazing team of dedicated, focused and hard-working individuals. This description applies equally to Directors and staff, as it does to Council.”
As a new Council, there has been an unprecedented work load which has included 1/reviewing and approving a number of key plans (Transportation & Commuter Cycling, A comprehensive Asset Management, Parks, Recreation & Culture 10 Year Plan, Long Term Financial Plan, Council Work Plan); 2/ the creation and renewal of key By-laws (Development Charges 5 year Bylaw, Sewage Capacity Allocation, Interim Control of Cannabis Production Bylaw); as well as 3/key projects (Gateway Signage Speed Reduction project, Prescott Lights).
Council also appreciated important learning opportunities including a comprehensive field trip with the Senior Management Team to all the facilities in North Grenville including the pump station, water reservoirs, sewage treatment plant, garages, and Fire Hall, which provided a better understanding of the complexity of the behind the scenes running of the municipality.
Additionally, Council participated in two important municipal conferences, the Rural Ontario Municipal Association Conference (ROMA) and the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) Conference, both of which provided opportunities for learning, networking and team building.
Relationship Building and Public Engagement
As a newly elected Council, Mayor Peckford and others emphasized the commitment to strive for respectful and collaborative relationships between and among Council colleagues (always an imperfect exercise but an important one nonetheless) so that Council acts from a position of strength.
Upon election, Council has sought to strengthen the organizational culture at the Municipality to ensure staff can do their best work on behalf of residents and businesses of North Grenville.
Mayor Peckford and Council members are also visible and connected in the community through the respective relationships they have forged with various groups in North Grenville. Councillors Barclay and McManaman highlighted the focus on increased public engagement, including more delegations and deputations at Council meetings, more feedback and ideas at the table.
Creating opportunities for direct and open dialogue with concerned residents has been key, including monthly Discussion Forums, as well as regular Council op-eds in the NG Times. This is to ensure there is sufficient engagement, accessibility and transparency.
Council doubled the number of Advisory Committees, all of which are chaired by residents, allowing members of our community the opportunity to drive change in a way that is meaningful to them.
Finally, Mayor and Council has been the catalyst for a Young Engagement initiative in our community to better understand and respond to the needs of diverse and dynamic young people. More youth are attending meetings, asking questions and have been brave enough to come before Council to request support for initiatives and programs. The work on a Youth Summit in 2020 is already underway with support from the Municipality.
[Part 2 of the review will appear in our next issue]