Meaford's newly elected council features two rookies who in the early going appear to be settling in quite nicely to their new positions.
After any municipal election I'm always curious as to how those elected to council for the first time wade into the sometimes crazy world of municipal governance. For me, new faces on council always offer hope – hope for change, hope for a new approach, a hope for fresh ideas.
Councillors Paul Vickers and Ross Kentner have indeed arrived at council armed with plenty of fresh ideas and new ways of looking at things. They have jumped into council debates with confidence, and from my seat at the media table, that is certainly a good thing.
The two rookie councillors are seated side by side at the council table, and their view across the way is of two councillors (Bell and Bartley) who were rookies themselves four years ago.
Again, it is very early going, as the new council has held just a couple of meetings thus far in the new term, but what has impressed me about these two fresh faces at council is that they carry themselves like they've held the position for years. Obviously carrying oneself well doesn't necessarily indicate any real capabilities, but Vickers and Kentner have proven themselves worthy of the votes they received in just the first few meetings.
Councillor Vickers brings a practical approach to council, likely a byproduct of his years as a dairy farmer. He hasn't feared asking questions in order to educate himself on process or history, and he has had much to offer during council debates. It was Councillor Vickers who noted during council's strategic priorities working session that the current policy for managing and prioritizing the hundreds of kilometres of roads in this municipality by “keeping the good roads good” while the rest languish in obscurity offers no hope for residents who want to know how long they'll have to live with their crumbling road. Vickers hit the nail on the head on that issue in my opinion – the lack of hope is what screams through the words of every resident I encounter who lives on a pot-hole filled road.
Vickers has also asked a number of questions that we don't often hear asked in the council chamber, including whether the municipality should re-evaluate the amount of money the municipality sells little slivers of municipally-owned land, often to solve a driveway or boundary issue between properties. Vickers has suggested that Meaford receives too little for these sorts of transactions, and he has suggested that the process be reviewed.
Likewise Councillor Kentner has been as engaged as any member of council, and it can be easy to forget that he's been in the role less than a month. He has also been engaged in a way that we haven't really seen on Meaford's council – on social media. Kentner is perhaps more active on social media, Facebook in particular, and he is using it to maintain a constant communication with Meaford ratepayers. He frequently posts photos and discusses the issues in the public forum that social media provides, and I think it's a smart strategy as one of the more common complaints I hear about councillors (sometimes legitimate and sometimes not) is that they don't listen or communicate with ratepayers. Kentner will likely never face that sort of criticism thanks to his open approach.
What I appreciate most about both of these new councillors is that they have no fear of asking questions, and many of them, in order to ensure that they fully understand policy and procedure. I would be far more concerned about a new member of council who asked too few questions – the council chamber is no place for 'know it alls'.
Don't get me wrong, I don't always agree with the positions taken by these new councillors, but I wouldn't expect to, and that isn't really what matters. There are many elected representatives whom I disagree with on issues but that I respect immensely, while there are others whose views align with mine for whom I have little respect outside of the issues.
Once again, it is extremely early in this term of council, but for any who had concerns about the new and less experienced members of council and how they would adjust to their new positions, early indications are that there's no need for concern. Councillors Vickers and Kentner are both eager to get to work, and they appear dedicated to serving ratepayers. In the early going, you couldn't really ask for more.