The newly-elected council of the Town of Bradford West Gwillimbury was sworn in on Tuesday night.
“Here’s the thing: it’s not really new,” noted Rev. Diane Knowles, speaking at the inauguration. “All the councillors, including Mayor Rob (Keffer) have been down this path before.”
In a surprising electoral result, despite a nearly record number of candidates, every single incumbent on the nine-member council was returned to office in the 2018 municipal election.
“I believe this speaks volumes about the work you have done for the past four years,” Knowles told councillors. “You are a team coming together, working responsibly for the greater good of the community.”
She called the level of co-operation “a gift,” and added, “the people voted… saying, ‘I like this gift.’ The vote was a show of appreciation for your rising to meet the challenges of running this town.”
Knowles invited council to “come out of the gate running, running with continued dedication to serve. The people have spoken and want you to keep on keeping on.”
The inauguration was held upstairs at the Bradford and District Memorial Community Centre.
Knowles delivered the blessing to a room packed with family members, supporters, town staff and dignitaries that included the new deputy mayor of New Tecumseth Richard Norcross, South Simcoe Police Chief Andrew Fletcher, and members of the Bradford West Gwillimbury
“It’s a pretty unique thing that happened here,” said the town’s CAO Geoff McKnight, referring to the return of all nine incumbents.
He suggested three reasons for the voter response. “You set a series of goals that you achieved, that impacted their lives positively,” McKnight said. “You responded to their needs when they approached you with questions… And you conducted yourselves in a respectful manner that reflected positively on the whole municipality.”
Justice of the Peace Roberto Zito then called up each councillor, deputy mayor and mayor individually to read an oath of office and be sworn in.
“It is a great honour to have the confidence of this community,” said Keffer, receiving his chain of office, and thanking his family and supporters.
He called the election campaign “an opportunity to listen, learn, renew and connect to our town,” and he promised council will “do our best to respond to our residents.”
Keffer said he would “continue in my unwavering commitment to fiscal responsibility… transparency, openness and engagement,” responding to residents’ questions and concerns.
And although the faces on council are the same, he said, there were “some differences between tonight and my inauguration in 2014.”
Council is experienced and has worked together for the past four years, he said, and it has already developed a new strategic plan setting the priorities for the coming term – focusing on traffic congestion and safety, jobs, town facilities and affordable housing.
“We have a lot of work to do, but we will work together to do the best we can,” said Keffer. “Together we will build a better town, for all areas of town.”
Each member of council then had an opportunity to speak, thanking family members and supporters, and adding their own pledge to continue working for the community:
“There’s a lot of pressure on us to do this again, and do it better.” – Deputy Mayor James Leduc
“We heard too many good ideas at the doors, over the last few months, to sit still.” – Ward 1 Coun. Raj Sandhu
“What we heard (going door to door) helped us focus on what were the main issues.” – Ward 2 Coun. Gary Baynes
“In 1849, we got responsible government in West Gwillimbury. In 1857, we got responsible government in Bradford. We need to keep that tradition up.” – Ward 3 Coun. Gary Lamb, with a reference to the Rebellion of 1837 and the demands of rebels for responsible government
“When this council votes on what we’re going to do, the whole council gets behind it.” – Ward 4 Coun. Ron Orr
“Even though we have been elected by ward, we represent the whole town.” – Ward 5 Coun. Peter Ferragine
“Those are not complaints, those are issues.” – Ward 6 Coun. Mark Contois
“Council’s not an easy job.” – Ward 7 Coun. Peter Dykie Jr. This is his 11th term.
The first regular meeting of the new Bradford West Gwillimbury council will take place Dec. 18 in the Zima Room of the BWG Public Library, 425 Holland St. W., at 7 p.m. Members of the public are welcome to attend.