Goodbye, with thanks

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Haliburton County’s political landscape is set to look very different tomorrow. 

We’ll have a list of all the candidates running in the fall elections. 

There’s a good chance we’ll even know a couple of mayors and councillors who are acclaimed, meaning they’re set to be elected as there is no other candidate vying for their seat (be sure to check out The Highlander online for the latest election news). 

It’s likely most councils will be “lame duck,” meaning so many councillors aren’t returning that their decision-making capabilities are limited until a new council is sworn in. But nearly as consequential as the names of those who are running, are the names of those who aren’t. This election will see three mayors retire, along with around half a dozen councillors. 

That’s a sizeable amount of experience gone. 

Over years in political office, councillors at their best can develop a rapport with staff, affinity with community groups, a deep knowledge of hot-topic files and trust with reporters and members of the media. 

Many of the outgoing councillors honed these skills. 

There were topics they were passionate about, community events they had a deep connection to and cottage groups they spent hours consulting. As a reporter, many of our conversations with political figures can be tense. 

Whether it’s about wetlands around Haliburton, a boat launch on Bob Lake, road clearing in Algonquin Highlands, or short staffing in Highlands East, we often hear from councillors and mayors when there is an issue to discuss. 

What we don’t cover is the everyday commitment shown by many of these retiring politicians. In the selection of profiles our team has produced about outgoing councillors and mayors we’ve tried to touch on some of the highlights of their political careers and some of the challenges. 

I hope it’s clear that each political figure said they are passionate about Haliburton, its past, and its future. Passion produces different actions depending on the person’s values and vision for their neighbourhood, hamlet, town or county. 

As reporters, we often see this passion play out in council meetings, or in a councillor’s ability to concentrate in a library board meeting after nearly eight hours of County council discussion. 

It’s a common perception amongst all we spoke with that the nature of politics, especially in the past couple years, has gotten sharper. 

Complex issues, such as the shoreline bylaw, resulted in hundreds of emails, Facebook comments and phone calls decrying how politicians handled these hot potatoes. It’s easy to let a politician’s reputation hang on one decision, whether good or bad. 

But politicians in Haliburton County are your neighbours. They love the lake, they spend Monday mornings with their grandchildren. 

They shoot hoops in the S.G Nesbitt Memorial Arena. 

They’re real people who balanced life with town hall duties. It’s important to critique and question our leaders’ decisions. 

As reporters, that’s our job. We can balance that with respect for the motives of this year’s retiring representatives, and the unique legacies they leave behind.