Newly-inaugurated Centre Wellington Mayor Kelly Linton says bringing great government to the community will be a major focus of the next four years.
On Dec. 1 it was a packed council chamber as the newly-elected council for Centre Wellington officially took office.
Councillors and staff were piped in by Liam MacDonald and the packed council chamber was led in the singing of O Canada by the Victoria Park Seniors’ Centre Melody Makers.
Rev. Greg Smith-Young of the Elora and Bethany United Churches provided both the invocation and inaugural blessing, while Robert Mullin of Smith Valeriote, with the assistance of Centre Wellington clerk Kerri O’Kane, undertook the declarations of office by the mayor and councillors.
Councillor Fred Morris was unable to attend the night’s event because of illness, but is expected to be officially sworn in at a later date.
In his inaugural address Linton thanked all those who came out that night.
“It’s great to have such a packed house,” said Linton.
“Firstly I want to publicly recognize the contributions to this community made by former councillor Walt Visser. Walt dedicated a lot of time and effort to this community. Thank you to Walt on behalf of the current council and the citizens of Centre Wellington for the years of your service.
“I also want to recognize former mayor Joanne Ross-Zuj for her years of dedication to the community as well and the past eight years as your mayor. I know public service can be a thankless job at times, so on behalf of your current council and citizens of Centre Wellington, I want to thank you for your years of leadership and commitment.”
He noted the township would officially recognize Visser and Ross-Zuj at a coming staff appreciation dinner.
Shifting his attention to the new council, Linton said, “It is with great pleasure that I welcome both Steve Kitras and Don Fisher to our council. You each bring unique skill sets and different experiences to the table. I look forward to working with both of you.”
To the returning councillors, Linton said he looked forward to each of them playing an important role working together for the best interests of the community.
He also wished councillor Morris a speedy recovery and said he hopes Morris returns home safe and soon.
Moving on, Linton said, “Democracy is not always as neat and tidy as we would like it to be. In fact, things can get messy at times. I know we will disagree with each other over the course of the next four years. That is not only okay, it is necessary. We must embrace our differences of opinion. It is our differences which make us stronger as a team.”
He added it is through “honest dialogue and passionate debate that good decisions are made and realized.
“As mayor you have my promise that as councillors you will have every opportunity to present your thoughts, ideas and to effectively represent your citizens and businesses.”
To township staff, Linton said, “I’m convinced we have really good people working at this township. Your new council will always recognize your areas of expertise and work hard with you to pursue our goals together.
“On Oct. 27 our community voted for change. This council has a strong mandate to do things differently. The results of the election made it clear the status quo is not an option.”
Linton said he intends to lead a council that has a priority on engaging the community and providing open and transparent government.
“We will find new and better ways to connect with our citizens and businesses.”
The township will be holding four seasonal town hall sessions, the first one within the first few months of the new term, Linton said.
“As your mayor, I will facilitate these sessions with the involvement of your elected councillors and the support of your CAO and management team. Stay tuned for more details.”
Linton also planned to have a Mayor Kelly Linton Facebook page up and running and Twitter account so residents can keep track of what he is up to.
Linton also planned for the introduction of an online community questionnaire to invite feedback from residents and businesses.
“Results from this survey will be used in a meaningful way in our strategic planning and budgeting exercises.”
He added the municipality is in the process of live-streaming council meetings.
He said the new council will also be focussed on prioritized spending. “In the next couple of months, council will be embarking on a strategic planning effort to clearly establish our goals for the next four years.”
He added council will be working with staff to establish operating budgets over the next few months.
“As you know, we have infrastructure needs we currently don’t have money for. It will be important to develop a go-forward plan to address this infrastructure deficit.
“This council will have some important financial decisions to make and I am not naive enough to think we will please everyone, but I promise that we will communicate our priorities and the rationale behind them.”
Linton added, “We need to treat your tax dollars with respect and be good stewards of the funds you have entrusted to us.”
Linton said another priority for the new council will be economic development and moving forward with a balanced growth strategy. He said priority will be given to attracting new jobs and investment.
He added he would like to see the current economic development committee morph into a task force including strong participation from private sector industry leaders.
“The job of this committee will be to recommend to council strategic actions to build on our areas of strength and be more competitive for investment and attracting jobs to Centre Wellington.”
Linton said he is not satisfied with Centre Wellington becoming a bedroom community for Guelph, Kitchener-Waterloo and the GTA.
“We need to build a town where our families can live, play and work,” he said.
In his closing statements, Linton said, “We live in a great community. I don’t think anyone questions that. But we have the chance to make it even better.”