This community has lost a champion with the passing of Terry Butler. Someone who gave so much in time, energy and sheer hard work will be extremely difficult to replace, because he was quite a special kind of man. You can find people who disagreed with him on some things, others who found his style too low key and accommodating at times. But you will have to look very hard and long to find anyone who disliked him.
I got to know Terry after he was elected to the North Grenville Council in 2003. Running for election to council was, in itself, a major decision for Terry, who had his own business to run and for whom time spent on Council would come at a great cost, personally and professionally. He was elected at the same time as Peter Nicol, and the two men formed a natural partnership. Both had a dedication to community and the people of North Grenville that predated their political initiation, and both had a personal commitment that promised great things for the municipality.
Their first experience was not a good one: their newness allowed the Community Grants program that existed at the time to be cut, and Terry never forgot that lesson. When Peter died within a year of the election, Terry had to carry on alone, often in the face of strong obstruction from his fellow-council members.
In his time on Council, Terry probably worked harder than any councillor, before or since. He was on so many committees, it is hard to know how he kept everything going. In many ways, I thought him to be a lone advocate for his community, a sole voice for compassion, generosity of spirit, and a willingness to see North Grenville as much more than just a corporation with an eye only on the bottom line.
He was inspired by people like the late Terry McEvoy, who shared his own vision with his namesake, and after Terry McEvoy’s sudden death in 2009, Councillor Terry carried on with the concept of the Giving Garden, which remains in operation at the Ferguson Forest Centre on County Road 43. As part of the Kemptville 150 Committee, Terry committed himself to the legacy projects originating in that time, including the Trails System, the Anniversary Park in the FFC, and also in establishing the Ryan’s Well project in the grounds of Kemptville College.
Few people, other than those watching municipal council in those days, realised how hard Terry had to fight at times against the others at the council table. He was given some really impossible jobs, especially that of trying to sell the naming rights to various rooms in the Municipal Centre. Completely unrealistic targets were set for him, and some very unfair criticism was leveled when they were proven to be so. Naming rights to the theatre were set at $250,000, for example. When you consider that those rights have since been sold for just $7,500 per year for five years, it is clear what a challenge Terry faced.
But the challenges he believed in, those he was very willing to fight for. I can remember vividly the stubborn resistance he put up to attempts by the mayor and council to end the lease agreement with the Ferguson Forest Centre Board, when plans were being hinted at that the property would be sold to developers. Working with the FFC Board, Terry fought long and hard to give the FFC a new and long-term lease that would enable the Centre to continue operating in the future, and continue to provide the people of North Grenville with a magnificent green space in the heart of their community.
Someone said to me recently that people who work in retail should not go into politics, because their profession emphasises the need to keep everyone happy and avoiding conflict and confrontation. Perhaps that was true of Terry. He worked extremely hard to carry that approach into his life on Council, in spite of the difficult and sometimes harsh treatment he received there, and no matter how difficult it was at times to hold his tongue and be a team player. The fact that he did so was sometimes a source of upset to others who wanted him to speak out more. But that was Terry: he just got down to work, took whatever was thrown at him, and kept working for the people of North Grenville. It is a genuine pity that he didn’t have the support of equally caring and compassionate colleagues: it would have made his time in public service more enjoyable and more rewarding.
Nevertheless, Terry believed so much in the people of his municipality that he put in the long hours in meetings, in travel, and in discussion in the Victorian Pantry that he believed were simply part of his job. Quiet, unassuming, often very funny in private conversations about the things he couldn’t talk about in council, Terry Butler served his neighbours and friends faithfully and well. He believed in the potential of North Grenville. He believed in reaching out, not waiting for people to come to council. Unlike so many others, he never stopped seeing his role as serving the people. And he never stopped being true to himself.