By BOB BRUTON Barrie Examiner October 27 2010
Jeff Lehman no longer has city hall in his sights, but in the palm of his hand.
Barely 12 hours after being elected Barrie’s next mayor, Lehman wasn’t basking in the glow of victory Tuesday morning. He was already making plans to lead this city for the next four years.
By noon, he’d already tried to make contact with his 10 councillors, reaching seven of them.
Lehman, 35, wants no part of the outgoing city council’s at-times dysfunctional character.
“I want to establish a sense of team on council and an opportunity to have conditions that are consensus-building,” he said, sipping coffee at the Tim Hortons near his Essa Road campaign office.
“We are going to work together.”
Lehman says he likes the makeup of his new council, a mix of experience and energy that will help to make the difficult decisions ahead.
Returning are Couns. Lynn Strachan, who’s taking over Lehman’s downtown Ward 2, Barry Ward, Michael Prowse, John Brassard and Alex Nuttall.
Bonnie Ainsworth, the new Ward 1 councillor, has been there before — serving from 1997 until 2003. Brian Jackson, the current Innisfil mayor, takes over for Coun. Andrew Prince in Ward 9.
The newcomers are Doug Shipley in Ward 3, who defeated incumbent Coun. Rod Jackson, Peter Silveira in Ward 5, Strachan’s current ward, and Jennifer Robinson in Ward 8, where Coun. Jerry Moore decided not to seek re-election.
Also gone are Mayor Dave Aspden and veteran Ward 1 Coun. Mike Ramsay, who both ran for mayor.
“We have got an experienced group (on the next council), if you look around the table,” Lehman said.
That said, there are other alliances among Barrie councillors which could come into play during the next four years.
Lehman, the next mayor, is a member of the Liberal party.
Ainsworth, Brassard and Nuttall are all Conservatives, while Robinson was supported in this election campaign by Barrie Conservative MP Patrick Brown.
Lehman doesn’t expect these party affiliations — or any unknown ones — to be a significant factor during the new term.
“I hope not,” he said. “I don’t think partisan politics has any place in local government. That’s one of its strengths, that no one around the council table is bound to toe the party line.
“That doesn’t mean there won’t be differences, because everyone brings their own values.”
Lehman said he received support from not only Liberals, but Conservatives and New Democrats during this election campaign.
“I was blown away by the support I received right across the board,” he said. “That is the level of support I bring to the city as mayor.”
That said, Lehman noted that many of the issues municipal governments deal with have little or nothing to do with political ideology.
“There’s no Conservative way to plough a street or a Liberal way to plough a street,” he said.
Aside from his broad-based support, Lehman said there are other lessons to be learned from the mayors’ race in Barrie.
One is that candidate attacks of a personal nature don’t work with voters.
“I don’t think that has any place (in local politics),” he said. “Canadians don’t like it. That is how the American political system works.”
Lehman says he instead stuck to the issues which matter to people, and that includes making city hall more accessible to Barrie residents.
He wants to change the city’s procedural bylaw to allow deputations to city council on any issue at council and/or general committee meetings.
“We need to make some decisions about how we want to hear from people,” he said. “You don’t need a study to do that.”
Lehman has unprecedented time to prepare for his new job, as the next council isn’t sworn into office until Dec. 6.
The out-going council meets five more times before its term expires, although it’s unlikely to make any big-ticket, or big-money, decisions during these meetings — due to its lame-duck status.
But Lehman won’t be waiting. He’s making his plans now.
He’s bent on moving the city forward, at last.