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Departing councillors say goodbye

Acrimonious for most of the evening, the final meeting of the current Woolwich council wrapped up with a love-in, as four of the five members said their goodbyes.

Much of the Tuesday night’s meeting was taken up with the debate over a gravel pit proposed for a site near Winterbourne. Residents were in no mood to thank departing councillors for their years of service, preferring instead to express their dissatisfaction with the decision to approve a zone change application for Kuntz Topsoil, Sand and Gravel.

As Ruby Weber noted, it wasn’t the ideal way to wind down her time on council.

“This job has not always been easy. I certainly didn’t expect my last two weeks to be quite as difficult as they were,” she said, in reference to the controversial gravel pit application that dominated the last two meetings.

“I made a decision on an issue tonight that I’m not really happy with. I also felt it was the right one to make at the time. That’s part of what this job is all about: sometimes you have to make decisions that you aren’t entirely happy with after you’ve made them because there really isn’t a good decision to be made.”

A longtime councillor, Weber lost her Ward 1 seat in last month’s municipal election. Bill Strauss, who had 25 years in Woolwich politics, including the last 13 as mayor, and Murray Martin, who had 16 years of service, were also defeated Oct. 25. Sandy Shantz declined to run again after serving one term as Ward 1 councillor.

Only Ward 2’s Mark Bauman will return when a new council is sworn in Dec. 7.

Drawing parallels to the debate earlier in the evening, Shantz said the role of a councillor is a tough one, especially when disagreeing with constituents.

“Public life is not black and white, but a whole variety of shades of gray, with sometimes green, red, blue and teal thrown in for good measure. You elect your council to represent you and to do the right thing; most often, that right thing falls in those shades of gray,” she said.

The experience was often an eye-opening one, Martin added of his time on council.

“For most of the time I enjoyed it, and I’ll probably miss it for a little bit … just a little bit,” he laughed. “I hope that I’ve contributed along the way. I certainly learned an awful lot.”

As with all the departing councillors, he said what he’ll really miss are the people: colleagues and staff.

For Strauss, the change will be most profound, especially after 25 years. As well as his Woolwich duties, he also represented the township on regional council, forging relationships there during his tenure as mayor.

The transition over the last month has had its ups and downs.

“I’ve been working on this night for the last four weeks, and I’m still not ready for it,” he said just prior to adjourning a meeting for the final time.

“It’s been a real honour to wear this chain of office. I’m going to take it off tonight for the last time,” he said, pointing out that the official chain now bears his name, given that his time as mayor has come to an end.

At 13 years, he is the township’s longest-serving mayor, perhaps a target for mayor-elect Todd Cowan, who was in the gallery Tuesday night. “There’s a challenge for you, Todd,” laughed Strauss.

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