by Brandon Mayer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Village of Merrickville-Wolford has officially welcomed a new Council member for the Wolford ward. Councillor Stephen Ireland took the oath of office during the regularly scheduled council meeting on Monday, November 22, which took place virtually.
The vacancy which Councillor Ireland has filled was left after the passing of former Councillor Don Halpenny on August 16. Mayor Struthers spoke before the oath, sharing a positive message about being able to rely on Steve Ireland to fill the vacancy. Council opted not to hold a bi-election upon Councillor Halpenny’s passing, and instead reached out to former local Councillors to see if anyone would step up to the plate.
Councillor Ireland is a long-time resident of Merrickville-Wolford who ran for Council for the first time in the 2014 municipal election. He won a seat as one of two Councillors-at-large, in what was then a seven member Council for Merrickville-Wolford. At the time, he had campaigned on a promise that he would uphold the same standards of ethics and public welfare if elected Councillor as he was already required to abide by in his work as a professional engineer. He also spoke of his budgeting experience, and questioned what he believed were poor controls on spending and the resulting tax increases by the preceding Council. For the 2018 municipal election, Merrickville-Wolford reduced its Council size from seven to five members. Eight candidates fought for four Councillor seats, but Councillor Ireland did not seek re-election.
The Village of Merrickville-Wolford has received some criticism for not providing more adequate notice to the public of the newly appointed and sworn-in Council member. A short notice on the Village’s website simply reads, “On behalf of Council, Mayor Struthers is pleased to welcome Councillor Steve Ireland back to the Village of Merrickville-Wolford Council Chamber. Council appointed Councillor Ireland to fill the vacant Council seat on Mon Nov 8th and Councillor Ireland read the Declaration of Office on Mon Nov 22, 2021. The vacant seat was created by the passing of former Councillor Don Halpenny.” No mention of the appointment could be found on the Village’s Facebook page.
Following the oath which Councillor Ireland took with Clerk Doug Robertson, Mayor Struthers provided cheerful applause, noting that Council and the gallery would all be applauding if the meeting had been held in person.
Councillor Ireland could not be reached for comment by the time of writing.