Hello Westport Council 2018-22

council-2018.jpgCouncillors Barry Card, Melissa Sullivan, Jacky Brady and Rob Roberts and Mayor Robin Jones were sworn in by CAO Paul Snider tonight at the Inaugural Meeting of Council.  Congratulations to all members of Council and thanks to so many community members who joined the meeting.

Dr Canon Reverend David Ward from St Paul’s Anglican Church gave the blessing and then Mayor Robin Jones delivered the following Inaugural Speech:

Inaugural Speech of Mayor Robin Jones, Village of Westport, Tuesday, December 4, 2018.

Good Evening Ladies and Gentlemen, family and friends.

On October 22nd the citizens of Westport went to the polls to elect a new Council.  I would like to congratulate my fellow council members here today for securing a seat on council. I would also like to thank all those who let their name stand for Council.

To our outgoing members of Council – We became a Council in a difficult time – particularly in regard to the Village’s waste water system. You’ve given Westport a tremendous gift: your time, your dedication and the very best of yourselves. And to all of you, – Gerald Schwinghamer, Frank Huth and Mark Parliament – on behalf of the Village, thank you for your service. I hope to hear more from all of you in new ways over the coming years..

I am honoured to have been acclaimed as your Mayor and together as the Council of the Village of Westport, we have been tasked to work hard and diligent over the next four years and I look forward to a productive and progressive term. The voters have given our Council new voices in Melissa Sullivan, Rob Roberts and Barry Card.  Jackalyn Brady is beginning her 4th term as a Westport Councillor.

Municipal politics is not a thankless job, although some days you might think that is the case.  You will soon learn that your new role places stress on relationships, you will find that judging someone’ s motivation has become more challenging, and you will hear your name associated to events that you have no knowledge of.  For Certain,  I know there’s sacrifice that comes with being a municipal politician.

On the other hand, there is a real reward in making a positive difference for your neighbours and for the Village. There is no other order of government with as much up close and personal contact with its constituents.

Westport was built by early Irish immigrants.  And in the past 20-25 years, it has attracted people from diverse backgrounds, interests and points of view, working together for the common good.  The willingness to reach across gaps of difference, to find common ground and common purpose is one of our Village’s greatest strengths.

And the public expect nothing less from its Council. We have different opinions based on our different experiences, and I expect us to express those differences honestly. I expect us to listen to those differences and respect them. And I expect us to work together effectively, in good faith.  That means acknowledging that we can learn from each other, and from the community.

And it means trying new things – without rejecting them out of hand simply for being new. A changing village calls for new ideas and innovative solutions.  There will be times when, simply put, we will need to be nimble.

Here are some new ideas and innovative solutions for consideration.

The rejuvenation of Lockwood Park has been fascinating to be part of since 2013, which at that time was a jewel of a green space in the heart of the Village that few people knew existed.  Without spending any tax dollars and through the hard work of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee and others, it has become a place for everyone in the village to enjoy.  However, there is still more work to do. The Village recently received a $10K grant for accessible playground equipment that all children can enjoy, so that planning needs to occur.  The new stage will be ready for this spring and summer and with thanks to the Westport Arts Council – it will have a microphone, projector and screen.  I am hoping that movie nights become part of summer fun.  I look forward to the suggestions that will come to the Council Chamber this year. The Harbour is another jewel, and the truth be told – we do not have 1/2 million dollars to rejuvenate it.  And still, I challenge Council to look at it through new eyes and consider its potential.

Tourism sustains the Village from May 24 – Labour Day.  But what about those shoulder seasons?  How can we market the village as a 3 season – or even a 4 season destination?  We need to keep an open mind and understand our objective – increasing tourist traffic in the spring and fall.  What can this Council accomplish in the next 4 years?

The business community received some good news this week.  The Provincial Government is planning to pass a new bill on Wednesday that will freeze the minimum wage at $14/hr and reduce the number of paid sick days.  As you will recall, the impact in January when the minimum wage jumped to $14 was felt by all businesses.  I am also aware that the Westport and Rideau Lakes Chamber of Commerce is at a critical point in its history.  I understand that difficult decisions are on the horizon.  Should the Chamber cease to operate for 2019, the Village will pick up the responsibility for managing the Information Centre.  We need to be thinking about this possibility – but Let’s cross that bridge when and if we get to it.

I will continue with the quarterly Breakfasts with the Mayor meetings. They are a unique opportunity to meet with business owners and other interested members of the community over a meal and discuss their issues and concerns.  However, I would like to see Town Hall raise its focus on businesses. There is a gap in the Village connecting with businesses – with a spirit of welcoming new businesses and offering support for the retention of existing ones.  This will be the responsibility of the Economic Development Advisory committee, which will give it a more focussed mandate.

I have observed that when new residents move into the Village,  no organization reaches out to them – not from business, church groups or Town Hall, which is odd when you think about it because we are such a welcoming community.  As a Village, we can do better. I don’t see as natural a fit as the reach out to businesses, but one that I encourage Councillors to consider and we can discuss.

I am concerned in the ability of our web site to attract and help “sell” people to move here to live or to set up a new business.  There are two websites that people go to when considering Westport for their home or businesses – the Municipality’s website and the Chamber of Commerce.  Our web master can perform miracles with the information she is provided, but in the absence of these details we have what we have.  I challenge Council and in particular Economic Development and Tourism Advisory Committees to look at the our website from this perspective and then we can discuss how it gets taken to the next level.

And yes Bedford St.  Need I say more?  Our financial reality is that we need a grant in order to repair or reconstruct the road.  A lot of people talked about “gettin’ it done in the past few months, but the truth of the matter is that we do not have the debt capacity to take out that much long term debt at this point in time.  Plans are in place to have a solid submission in the summer for an OCIF grant.

Our duty as a Council is to map out Westport for the future, not just for the next 4 years, but 20 or 30 years from now.  We will be able to accomplish this through asset management financial planning and updating our strategic plan – they go hand in glove.

I know from experience that everything takes time, but as long as Council is determined and gives direction to staff – great things can happen.

Which brings up the subject of our staff at Town Hall.  Since becoming Mayor in 2014, we have had 100% turnover at Town Hall.  We changed our Clerk position to CAO/Clerk, changed our Deputy Treasurer to Treasurer /Acting Clerk and have created a public works department.  In such a short period of time, our employees have shown they understand the importance to consider the question that they often hear me ask, “what is  in the best interest for the Village of Westport”?  They work long hours in order to provide answers to that question.  On behalf of both the past Council and the new members here today, thank you for your commitment and loyalty to the Village.

The backbone of our community continues to be the many volunteers – both who reside or work in the Village and those from the GWA – who quickly and continuously dedicate hours and hours of time to the Village.  You are never far from our thoughts and on behalf of council, thank you – we are a much better community because of your efforts.

Council, Our work begins today. I have great faith in each of you. There is talent and goodwill from all sides. The people of Village want us to put that talent and goodwill to work on their behalf. And they fully expect us to work together. We know and so do the people of Westport know it is easy to criticize and stay on the sidelines, and tougher to create and get in the game.

The path to the future belongs to those who have the courage to try new things.  We won’t get it right every time and we will persevere in the face of adversity.  What we bring to the Council Chamber is our integrity, our professionalism and our commitment to work together.

When we bring these qualities to Council, it is easy to answer the question “What is in the best interest of the Village?”