St. Marys Journal Argus
After musical performances by his three children that he readily admitted were “a hard act to follow,” Al Strathdee repeated his Declaration of Office on Tuesday, Dec. 9 in the Town Hall Auditorium, as the 2014-18 version of Town Council held its Inaugural Meeting.
Strathdee was attired in a formal kilt that he later explained he wore at his wedding to his wife, Gloria, and only a few times since. And he beamed with pride as, first, his eldest daughter Andrea played guitar and sang Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” solo, followed by a performance of Johnny Reid’s “Today I’m Going to Try to Change the World” by Andrea and her siblings Billy and Rachel.
“It’s one of his favourite songs that I do,” Andrea responded, when asked why the folk music classic Both Sides Now was chosen for her father’s inauguration. Billy, meanwhile, noted that the Johnny Reid anthem “is very motivational. It’s a song that you can be inspired by.”
Strathdee, who had never served on Council, unseated incumbent mayor Steve Grose in the Oct. 27 municipal election. In his inaugural address after repeating his Declaration and receiving the Chain of Office and Gavel from CAO Kevin McLlwain, the new mayor made reference to the issues he raised during the campaign.
He said a top priority for him is "to work to save the Green Bridge and (as a Council) try our best to get it opened to vehicular traffic. I believe this issue is our first priority, and I want to deal with it quickly.”
Other priorities mentioned in his address, in order, were operating a transparent government, exploring options for the re-opening of the Quarry’s high diving board, to improve relationships with neighbouring municipalities, catching up on what he says has become a deficit in repairs of streets and sidewalks, to strive to make it affordable for people to live in St. Marys, to keep open and enhance services at VIA Rail and St. Marys Memorial Hospital, and to improve relationships between the Town and its industrial employers.
“I’m very aware of the concerns our citizens have raised regarding Green Arc (Tire Manufacturing),” Strathdee said of the company that plans to open a used tire remanufacturing facility on James Street South once it receives Ontario Ministry of the Environment approval. “I will be asking Council to work to ensure that that our existing industry and citizens have their concerns addressed.”
Absent for the inaugural meeting was the only other newly-elected member of Town Council, Jim Craigmile. He sent a short note congratulating his fellow councillors, which was read by McLlwain.
The five other councillors, all of whom were re-elected on Oct. 27, also gave short Inaugural Meeting addresses. Bill Osborne made reference to a portion of Strathdee’s speech, in which he talked about Council working through disagreements. “Disagreement is essential,” the four-term councillor Osborne offered. “If we always agreed on everything, we wouldn’t move forward very much.”
Carey Pope read a passage about being sure that your motivations are to help others, written by the Dalai Lama. Beside her, Don Van Galen took a less serious approach, offering words of comfort to Strathdee for having been unable to correctly pronounce the word “pecuniary” in his Declaration of Office. He noted US President Barack Obama also fumbled the words at his inauguration. And, as a veteran St. Marys Community Players performer, Van Galen added, “it’s not the first time lines have been messed up on this stage. The secret is to just keep going!”
In a vote that pitted the two female members of Council against each other, Pope and Lynn Hainer were the two nominees for Deputy Mayor. Van Galen, Strathdee and Tony Winter all supported Pope, while Osborne voted for Hainer. That gave Pope the job for the first time.
Osborne asked the audience, which numbered about 100, to keep an eye out for Strathdee, who owns and manages a number of businesses and properties in town, and let him know their ideas and concerns. “If you see him — and we all do — it’s just a blur because he only has one speed, and that’s fast. I wish I could keep up with you, Al.”
For his part, Strathdee also had a request for the townspeople: “I’m very grateful for the trust and the faith the citizens have shown me . . . I will work to preserve all the things that I believe make this town unique.
“Please join me in showing your passion. I know it’s there. I’ve seen it in all of you.”