Maggie: Debbie, you’ve been involved in the community for many years. What made you want to become a councillor?
Debbie: Being involved in the community over the years has given me the confidence in this new role as Councillor. The experience that I gained by being a chair of a board, working as a volunteer on a committee, or a member of an advisory committee, has given me the experience to take on doing something like this.
Maggie: At what point did you decide to apply for the role, and who was your influence?
Debbie: I guess I would say that it was Mayor Peckford’s influence in many ways, but I had other role models along the way. There were lots of community leaders that I looked up to throughout the years. Being social was not one of my fortes. I am extremely shy. I have to thank the current council for being encouraging along the way of me doing something like this. I have never seen a council like this. Now, there have been good councils, but not as united as this one.
Maggie: How has it worked out for you? Was it what you expected?
Debbie: It’s worked out to be what I expected, and more. It’s been very fulfilling for me to be in this position, because it allows me to better understand our municipality and our community, its needs, whether you’re a senior, a youth, or teenager, or middle aged. It’s helped me to see the whole picture of what our community is, and how to work towards making it even better.
Maggie: Did your previous community activities help you as Councillor?
Debbie: Oh, absolutely. It helps to be organised in your thoughts. And I will say, though, it takes a lot to ask really good questions because, not being as experienced in the past four years as the other Councillors are, they know the questions to ask. I have the reports, and I can say, when I do ask the question I would like to know or maybe perhaps the public would like.
The other thing that I haven’t quite grasped yet is: how do I go and find out what other communities are doing? I think that our community is leading by example. I’m hearing it from other communities.
Maggie: So, what was the thing that surprised you when you joined council? Something you didn’t expect? Was there anything?
Debbie: I didn’t expect to feel so welcomed by the staff and the people working in the municipality. They were so warm. Any time you asked a question, they were ready to help you and ready to say, this is how you do it, or we can do this for you. And I was very surprised by this. And it’s just the atmosphere is so warm and engaging within the municipality.
Maggie: So now how do you see your role as a Councillor now that you have been doing it for several months?
Debbie: It’s become a little bit easier. I’m finding that I’m spending less time doing what I was doing two months ago. I’ve also been able to lend some good ideas. I’ve helped orchestrate a couple of events. My role as a Councillor right now is as liaison for Planning and Development. It’s a role that I really enjoy, because I get to see what’s in the future, and what may be happening for our municipality. And I get to engage with a really dynamic group. It’s exciting. I’ve learned so much and they are so open to helping me learn. I never thought this would be my role, but I am now comfortable in it. I’m also liaison for the BIA where I was formerly, so that was an easy role to climb into. I also liaise with the Chamber of Commerce.
Maggie: North Grenville is growing very quickly, too fast for some long established residents. How do you see the future of the municipality?
Debbie: We have a lot of growth happening. We have a lot of housing growth, which is good because we’re moving towards a little bit more affordable housing to help us sustain and keep our seniors living here, which is very positive. We do need some industrial growth. We need some facilities with a little bit more than 6,000 square footage to house some businesses, because Ottawa is full up, there’s nowhere for anybody to rent places in Ottawa for business. We have the college grounds. I anticipate a huge success with the Kemptville Campus. Almost of the buildings are full. We’re going to fully revitalize it.
Maggie: In 10 years, maybe 20. How do you see it?
Debbie: We need our downtown to be a hub for people to come and enjoy, including the waterway. Our downtown was vibrant when Highway 16 went through it. Times have changed. Highways bypass small towns, and that’s created the demise of many downtowns. But we used to have a lot of thriving businesses in our downtown.
Maggie: So do you think we’re moving too fast?
Debbie: I wouldn’t say that we’re moving too fast. I think if the current council can finish what they have started, we won’t let the growth overwhelm us. I mean, we have to think that, if you’re growing too fast, your roads, your infrastructure is not going to be able to handle it. County Road 43 is still a ways away. It’s going to happen.
Maggie: But all these new homes that are coming in now, these were approved way before this present council came on board.
Debbie: Most of them were, yes. The current council is not responsible for it. But it’s here, and we have to move forward. But we’ll be just a little bit more careful as to what is in the pipeline. We don’t need any more pizza shops. We do need to have an entertainment hub, a restaurant hub in our downtown. Places for people to go.
I love that we have a large farmers market that happens every Sunday. I love the fact that we’ve got the street piano summer concert series in the library. I love the fact that we’re going to be revitalising Riverside Park. We had loads and loads of people come for Canada Day. And groups like North Grenville Pride had an amazing crowd there for their event in Riverside Park.
Maggie: Do you think there’s a division between the old and the new residents when it comes to expectations?
Debbie: I think that we have a good balance here with seniors and youth and young adults. And based on the population and how many schools we have here, we’re attracting and retaining people of all ages. And I think we all get along really well. A prime example would be the Curling Club. You have a good balance of youth and seniors all playing together and curling together.
Maggie: How do you feel about North Grenville today?
Debbie: It’s a place I am proud to call home and where I want to live. I don’t want to live anywhere else. We’ve got good friends here. We’ve got good facilities. We’ve got a good hospital.
We’ve got everything that we need here. I hardly go into the city because I can get what I need here. I see a really bright future for North Grenville