Same Council, slightly different role. That’s the reality for John Barclay, who was re-elected along with his Council colleagues in October, and this month became Deputy Mayor.
The process for selecting a Deputy Mayor in North Grenville is an internal one. Council has an in-camera discussion wherein a candidate for Deputy Mayor (picked from the existing Councillors) is proposed and voted upon. It is typical for the Councillor with the greatest number of votes to be selected, though this is not a written rule. In the October election, John was indeed the Councillor with the greatest number of votes. In any case, the Mayor and Council are free to object to the appointment of a proposed candidate, and it ultimately comes down to a vote. This term, Council voted unanimously to elect John Barclay to the role.
The role of Deputy Mayor is largely a ceremonial one, though it does come with some added responsibilities. Notably, a Deputy Mayor is tasked with supporting the Mayor, stepping in if the Mayor is not available, and acting as a stand-in for the Mayor at Counties Council. Despite these extra duties, there is no inherent power increase that comes with the role. “It’s not, for example, that I get one and a half votes,” John noted. “We all have a single vote.”
In a discussion with the Times, Deputy Mayor Barclay was eager to discuss his visions for the current term of Council, but he also emphasized that Council must function as a team. “A lot of people have observed that we work well together as a team,” he said. “We don’t always agree on things, but when we do disagree, the discussions are always respectful and very fruitful.”
John initially ran for Council in 2014. Part way through the campaign, he switched his candidacy and ran for Mayor instead of running as a Councillor. In that election, he placed third. Still committed to serving his community, John ran for Council again in 2018, this time sticking with the role of Councillor, and he was elected. Asked why he wishes to serve his community on Council, John gave a clear answer: he fell in love with the community after moving here, and wanted to be involved.
John moved to North Grenville from Toronto, seeking a return to the small town lifestyle that he once knew. He began serving his community through volunteer work with various community groups, but what truly pushed him to run for Council was a frustration with what he perceived as poor communication and decision-making in Council. Having now served on Council for over four years, he feels much progress has been made in ensuring that Council communicates better and is more accountable. However, one frustration remains.
“The process in government, I find slow,” he says. “I try not to be a pain in the ass with staff, but life is short, can we speed this up without cutting any corners?” Having ample experience in the private sector, John is accustomed to more speed and efficiency than the formal procedures of government often allow.
John is grateful for the show of support from the community not only in his own re-election, but in the re-election of all of his Council colleagues as well. He explained that he and his colleagues sought re-election in part because they felt that the COVID-19 pandemic put a damper on some of their plans, so they wanted another term to achieve more goals.
So what lies ahead for the current four year term of Council? John explained that in general, Council hopes to achieve as many of the goals as possible that are laid out in the Municipality’s Strategic Plan. He describes this document as one that was written by North Grenville residents since so much feedback was sought during its creation. It therefore represents the interests of the majority of the community.
In terms of his own goals, he would like to see a focus on the development of Kemptville’s downtown, as well as more support for arts and culture initiatives, and a renewed focus on heritage in the Municipality. Whatever John and rest of Council achieve over the next four years, we can safely assume that Council members will do their absolute best for the community.