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Oro-Medonte’s Hughes eyes Simcoe County warden’s post

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In Council Watch
Oct 28th, 2014
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By  Sara Carson Barrie Advance

An “unbelievable” turnover at the County of Simcoe council table, including the loss of Warden Cal Patterson, has deputy warden and Oro-Medonte Mayor Harry Hughes considering the top job.

Hughes, who has been deputy warden for four years, said it would be difficult for a newly elected mayor to also take on the county warden role.“I haven’t said for sure, but certainly I’m leaning in that direction,” Hughes said Tuesday.

“One of the things you always look at is succession planning. Having been the deputy warden for that many years, yeah, I kind of have a sense of obligation,” Hughes said.

Patterson lost his Wasaga Beach mayor’s seat to Brian Smith. Smith won with 5,311 votes while the incumbent finished in third place, with 2,046.

County council is made up of the mayors and deputy mayors of all 16 Simcoe County municipalities. There are 32 positions.

Five mayors did not win their seat in Monday’s municipal election and four did not seek re-election.  In total, there are 17 new members on county council.

“I was expecting some turnover, but I was not expecting it to be as dramatic as it was,” Hughes said.

Hughes noted the last four County of Simcoe wardens were not re-elected as mayor after serving as warden.

“That probably has to do with the fact that the job of mayor is growing and the job of being the warden is also becoming more demanding,” he said.

The mayors who lost their seat are: Patterson, Wasaga Beach; Barb Baguley, Innisfil; Linda Collins, Springwater; Bill Duffy, Ramara; and Doug White, Bradford West Gwillimbury.

The four mayors who did not seek re-election are: Ray Millar, Tiny Township; Mike MacEachern, New Tecumseth; Ken Ferguson, Clearview; Tom Walsh, Adjala-Tosorontio.

“When you look at the people who were not re-elected, the mayors, they were a lot of the more-experienced people on county council,” Hughes said.

Hughes, a retired school principal, has served on Oro-Medonte council since 2001. He has been a councillor and deputy mayor as well as mayor’s.

Hughes, who is now in his third term as mayor, said he is ready to be county warden.

“The roles of a mayor and the roles of a warden would be very similar. It’s just a larger playing field,” he said.

If Hughes becomes county warden, he will have to offload some of his mayor’s work to the rest of Oro-Medonte council.

“When I look at some of the people around council who got elected, I believe they’re going to be quite capable. If it was a matter where Oro-Medonte would be really demanding, I wouldn’t even be considering it,” Hughes said.

Deputy Mayor Ralph Hough and Coun. John Crawford were acclaimed.

The warden position is a two-year term. The County of Simcoe will select a warden and deputy warden during its inaugural meeting in December.

“By that time, I’ll be able to have a good feel for our own newly elected council,” Hughes said.

Waste management, a dramatic increase in paramedic calls for service and affordable housing are issues Hughes wants county council to address right away.

The county is running out of landfill capacity and, in the interim, is sending half its garbage to Algonquin Power and Utilities Corp. to be burned.

“When it comes to waste management, if the county could only get the organics out of the garbage bags that’s supposed to be in the green bin, then the amount going into the landfill site would drop by 40 per cent. The challenge for the county is to be able to have that happen,” Hughes said.

This will require education along with rewards for those who are disposing of their trash properly and discouragements for those who are not, he said.

“If you were to shift the system so that you paid for what you put out at the curb, it may encourage people to do more sorting,” Hughes said.

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