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Township mayors vie for re-election

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In Council Watch
Mar 6th, 2014
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Bill Duffy

By Sara Ross, Orillia Packet & Times

With many more goals to accomplish, the mayors of Oro-Medonte, Severn and Ramara townships are hoping to secure another term in the municipal elections this fall.

Severn Mayor Mike Burkett’s first term on council has “been very positive.”

“The three years have gone by in a blink,” he said. “You’re in every day and there’s always something you’re trying to either better or fix. You’re listening to what the people have to say.”

What struck Burkett when he became mayor was how slow government works.

“I didn’t realize the restrictions that a municipality has from uppers levels of government,” he said. “It’s very discouraging.”

Burkett said council has been trying to accomplish everyone’s goals, but it must take “baby steps.”

“It’s a very rewarding job, but it’s also a very frustrating job at the same time because you’re not able to do what you think you can do by just being in power,” he said.

Severn continues to move ahead with a plan to pave all its roads.

Burkett wants to see a serviced industrial park in Severn.

“(There’s) really not a spot where industry can come to Severn,” he said.

Severn council has been moving forward with a project to beautify its hamlets and communities. This year, the township will put $50,000 toward those efforts.

Council hired a new recreation director in this term.

“So, we have recreation programs and it’s working out really well and the community is getting involved in it,” Burkett said.

He said Severn council must continue to focus on its fastest-growing community: Westshore. The township needs to establish a main street for Westshore and it is also looking at constructing a community centre, he said.

“That was one of the platforms that I ran on. I wanted to provide something for those residents and there’s absolutely nothing there for them,” Burkett said.

Severn has a library in Coldwater and will look at putting one in Westshore as well, he said.

“We’re excited about Westshore and the possibility coming up with another library encompassed in this community centre, I hope,” Burkett said.

Spurred by success, Oro-Medonte Mayor Harry Hughes will seek a third term.

Hughes said he enjoys the job and looks forward to continuing.

“I’m very proud to see the accomplishments of our council. We’re on the right track and we need to stay there,” he said.

Oro-Medonte is “almost a different world” now, compared to what the township was like before his first term in 2006, Hughes said.

“Of course, the paving of the roads really stand out. Everybody recognizes that,” he said.

Hughes also accomplished a personal goal to see the boat launch at Line 9 reconstructed.

Hughes takes pride in the advancements in health for the area.

Oro-Medonte was involved in the additions at both Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital and Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre in Barrie. The township is an integral part of local physician recruitment.

Oro-Medonte’s Huronia Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinic has seen an $800,000 expansion.

The expansion, a partnership between the township and the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, will allow for the addition of five staff members: a fourth nurse practitioner, a registered nurse, a social worker, a dietitian and an administrative support staffer.

“Health is a really important issue and getting gains in that is enough to encourage you to keep going,” Hughes said.

A key mayoral role is to make sure council members work well together and with staff, Hughes said.

“If you’re able to do that, a lot of good things happen within a municipality and in Oro-Medonte, that’s happening now,” he said.

So far, no one is challenging Hughes for the seat. There will be significant councillor turnover as only three of seven members will run again, Hughes said.

“Keeping stability is significant,” Hughes said about the importance of remaining mayor.

Ramara Mayor Bill Duffy will be battling for his seat as Ramara’s deputy mayor, Basil Clarke, has put his name forward for the mayor’s position.

“Coun. (John) O’Donnell decided to run for deputy and he made that quite clear that he was moving up. He mentioned that a year ago that he was moving up because he wasn’t happy with certain things. Basil knew that. And you can either move up, stay where you are, move down or get out. So, Basil decided to run for mayor and that’s fine,” Duffy said.

Duffy said the township has had “a couple blemishes,” including the public works employees joining the Union of Public Employees, Duffy said.

“The works department voted for a union. I wasn’t happy about that. That could have been resolved at some point,” he said. “It might as well be in election speech now, if some people had of done their job at the right time, we wouldn’t have a union.”

Duffy said he should continue as mayor because he is accessible to the public.

“I’m available. I’m available 24/7. People call me up. I attend meetings. I’m there. I listen to the people. I think people like that,” he said.

Duffy, who has been mayor for 11 years, said he likes the job and wants to continue doing it.

“People have come to me and they say, ‘Don’t quit,’ and that’s nice to hear,” he said.

Duffy said he is working on bringing jobs to the township, but could not say what those plans were.

“I can’t say anything, but that it will be big,” he said.

Clarke could not be reached for comment Thursday.

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