Teary eyes filled Kenora’s council chambers on Monday as this group of Council held their last meeting together ahead of the 2022 municipal election.
The celebration began as councillors came together at the end of September 20’s Council meeting to honour Chris Van Walleghem and Rory McMillan, who have both decided to step away and retire from municipal politics after this term.
“As we all know, our friend and colleague Rory McMillan is retiring from municipal politics. But true to form for Rory, it didn’t take him long to fill the void, find a way to participate in the community and represent the citizens of Kenora,” said Councillor Andrew Poirier, during his comments.
Despite his announced retirement, McMillan will sit on the English Public School Board after the upcoming municipal election. McMillan chose to step up and fill the vacant trustee position after the deadline for nominations and will be joined by Robert Kitowski and Dave Cornish.
McMillan is a lifelong Kenora resident who has served the community for just shy of 28 years now. Poirier says it’s finally time for him to put down the Municipal Act, and presented Rory will a full-length copy of Ontario’s Education Act.
“That’s an easy read,” said Councillor Mort Goss, to a room full of laughs.
McMillan thanked Poirier for the gesture and did his best to keep his emotions in check as he thanked the Kenora community for all of their support over the last 28 years, as well as his fellow council members – both past and present.
“As a member of the City of Kenora council, I’ve had the good fortune to work with many great men and women,” says McMillan.
“We’ve all been a microcosm of the community and we’ve all committed to working to move our city forward. I appreciate that. I want to thank all staff for their dedication and hard work in making our city a great place to live,” he adds.
McMillan had originally planned to join fellow councillor Chris Van Wallegham in retirement. Van Walleghem was a paper mill worker for over 35 years before beginning his political career by serving his first term as a city councillor between 2010 and 2014.
While he opted not to run for re-election in 2014, Van Walleghem returned to City Hall four years ago when he was elected in the 2018 municipal election by a difference of two votes. But he says now is the time for new folks to come forward with new ideas to lead the city.
“Thank you to Councilors Van Wellegham and McMillan for your years of service. Your example, leadership, professionalism and friendship has been really appreciated. Thank you both,” said Councillor Graham Chaze, who adds “It’s been an absolute honor and a privilege to serve Kenora.”
As he was ‘saving the best for last’, Kenora Mayor Dan Reynard took time to thank everyone on Council for their hard work over the last four years serving the community, noting that things will look quite differently in just over a month.
“There are people who are going to be leaving this table. Thank you very much for the last four years.”
“Councilor McMillan, you’ve been a role model to me. I appreciate that. The citizens of Kenora have been very lucky for your commitment and passion, you have been a role model and you will be missed. Thank you very much for everything that you’ve contributed to our municipality.”
“Chris, why anyone would come back twice – I’m not really sure. But thank you very much for the last four years,” added Mayor Reynard, with a laugh.
Reynard confirmed he would not be seeking re-election this fall in August, saying the decision was a difficult one to make and he is keeping his reasons private.
Reynard was elected as Kenora’s Mayor in 2018, defeating Lydia Harlos for the seat. He succeeded Dave Canfield, who Reynard served under as a city councillor.
“Dan, I want to thank you for your leadership over this term. There have been some tumultuous times, but you have continued to lead our city forward,” adds councillor McMillan. “You managed to put your leadership skills into place and build a team by recognizing our individual skills and talents. That’s evidenced in our community today.”
Since his 2018 election, the City of Kenora and the community as a whole have undergone major changes under Reynard’s leadership.
They include a new-look downtown core after phase 4 of downtown revitalization with a new roundabout and an improved First Street to smooth traffic flow, an upgraded Kenora Shoppers Mall, new parking meters downtown and work has started at McLeod Park – the first step of a $25 million redevelopment of the Harbourfront and Greenbelt.
The next set of councillors will have a tough task ahead of them, including addressing housing, the possible twinning of the Kenora Rec Centre’s ice surface, the reduction of policing costs, phase five of downtown revitalization, the Harbourfront’s redevelopment and the possible development of a casino at the former mill site.
But councillor McMillan says this group of Council has laid out a strong foundation for the future, and he’s wishing all candidates the best of luck in the October 24 election.
“To each of you that is running, I really wish you well. “There’s a road-map set out. If you follow that, we’re going to be a strong and successful community. This community, I believe, is one of the best to live, work and play,” adds McMillan.
Current Councillor Andrew Poirier enters the race for Mayor along with Kenora & District Chamber of Commerce President Andy Scribilo and David Byers-Kitt, a Kenora resident of 56 years.
Returning councillors Graham Chaze, Sharon Smith and Mort Goss will try to get one of six seats offered.
Other applicants for council include; Lindsay Koch, Kelsie Van Belleghem, Mark LaBelle, Cecile Marcino, Chris Poate, Louis Roussin, Logan Haney, Barb Monson, Joel McGrath, Bob Bernie, Lisa Moncrief and Mark Perrault.