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Hough, DeSousa appointed to Oro-Medonte council

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In Council Watch
Dec 20th, 2019
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Ralph Hough

Council approves appointments despite concerns from some residents who wanted a byelection

By Nathan Taylor Orillia Matters

Oro-Medonte’s council is about to become whole again.

At a special meeting this week, council approved the appointments of Ralph Hough as deputy mayor and Tammy DeSousa as Ward 2 councillor. Those two positions became vacant when Coun. Scott Macpherson died Nov. 6 and, two weeks later, Deputy Mayor Scott Jermey died.

Prior to the 2018 election, Hough had served on council for 21 years. It was an easy decision for him to put his name forward for the job again.

“I thoroughly enjoyed it and was disappointed when I didn’t get re-elected,” he said.

With Hough heading back to the table, he and Mayor Harry Hughes will be the only ones with previous experience on township council.

“I hope that my experience will be of assistance,” Hough said. “There are a lot of major issues on the horizon, including growth issues. I always had a reputation for being frugal when it came to tax time and I will certainly keep going that way to keep taxes down.”

DeSousa was Macpherson’s only challenger in last year’s election, and she said her reasons for seeking the appointment were the same as when she was campaigning in 2018.

“I wanted to represent the people of Ward 2,” she said, acknowledging she has some catching up to do since she’ll be joining council a little more than a year into its term. “I’ve got a lot of work to do. I want to see where Scott was at and what he was working on.”

DeSousa said she is “very grateful and honoured” to have been chosen for the position.

“My parents instilled in me to be a part of the community and give back to the community, and that’s what I plan to do,” she said.

Hughes is excited to have DeSousa join council and to once again work alongside Hough, but he said this week’s meeting was a difficult one.

“We still haven’t recovered from losing those two council members within two weeks. Filling their seats was emotionally draining as well as challenging,” he said.

Council has faced some criticism for not holding a byelection, but Hughes defended the appointment process, calling it “an issue of practicality.” Byelections are costly and this isn’t an ideal time of the year to campaign, he said.

Council received dozens of letters from residents, many of whom asked that a byelection be held, but Hughes said many of them were “cut and paste.”

“What it tells you is there is somebody or some group that is mounting a campaign,” he said.

Linda Myles was one of the residents who attended this week’s meeting. She was “disappointed” there wasn’t a byelection, but she remains hopeful.

“The point was made that we have an inexperienced council, and the loss of two of our colleagues, who I had a tremendous amount of respect for, left us with a real experience gap,” she said. “To use that rationale to appoint Ralph Hough made sense.”

She understands the concern about the cost of a byelection, “but this is supposed to be a democratic process and we still have three years left in the term,” she said.

“If this had been one position (that needed to be filled), I may have been able to swallow it easier, but it’s almost one-third of council,” she said, but added she is “looking forward to working with both new members of council.”

Hough was in favour of the appointment process and said he would have voted for it if he were on council at the time.

“I would have done the same thing. It’s a terrible time of the year to be campaigning, and time is of the essence,” he said, noting the seats have to be filled by Jan. 24.

DeSousa said she would have been supportive of whatever direction council might have taken to fill the vacancies.

“It was council’s decision. It’s very expensive to run a byelection — money that isn’t budgeted. That swayed some people toward appointment,” she said. “Either way, it would’ve been appropriate.”

DeSousa and Hough will be sworn in Jan. 14.

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