As Wellesley Mayor Ross Kelterborn prepares to retire next week, the community he’s served for more than 30 years commemorated his departure with a fitting celebration of short speeches and thoughtful gifts.In fact, the kind words from friends and colleagues from across the region may have been a bit too much, as the usually calm and collected Kelterborn became emotional when asked to speak to the group at the Wellesley Community Centre on November 26.
“This might be a little difficult for me but I’ll try my best. This has been my community for 75 years,” Kelterborn said, his voice breaking.
Kelterborn served 11 years as mayor, first elected in 2003, after 22 years as a councillor. He announced his retirement this spring and mayor-elect Joe Nowak will take over on December 1.
“I’ve had a blessed life,” Kelterborn said. “My children have turned out very well and my grandchildren have been excellent for me, and I need them right now.”
The retired school teacher spoke about his time on council and his hopes for the future of the township at his home in Wellesley earlier that day. He was encouraged to run for councillor in 1973 when regional government was set up. Before that Wellesley was classified as an incorporated village and had fewer than 1,000 people, he recalled.
This was before councillors were even given that title. Instead, they were called town fathers and the mayor was titled a reeve.
There have been more than a few changes in the township and village since that time.
Kelterborn reminded those in attendance he’s wanted to see a nursing home in Wellesley. The village now has a seniors’ home and a seniors’ complex.
Another important part of his career, he notes, was the creation of numerous recreation complexes and arenas in the township.
“Those were important things for people to have recreational facilities and for the young people to have places to skate,” Kelterborn said.
He also mentions the more recent splash pad and skateboard park as projects he’s proud of. This is another area he says the new council will have to examine.
“We are short on recreational land,” Kelterborn said. “We developed a study to tell us how much land we should have and that’s ready for the new council to work with.”
At 75 years of age, part of the reason he decided not to run for re-election was his poor hearing. He said he had difficulty hearing at meetings with poor acoustics. He also said it was time for fresh ideas and new thinking.
Kelterborn credits the support of his family for his three-decade run in municipal politics.
“During the time that I ran when my first wife passed away in 2003, my family and her were a big help to me,” Kelterborn said.”
He continued, “My thought was to talk to each person in the township, to rap on their door and actually speak to them. In 2005 I remarried and both my wife and my children helped me a great deal in doing that because it’s quite a job. That’s the secret, in my opinion, to being successful.”
As for his retirement, he says he’s going to enjoy the village that he’s lived in his whole life.
“I’m going to relax for awhile. I don’t know what I’ll do.”
Regional Chair Ken Seiling said with a laugh on Wednesday that he told Kelterborn he shouldn’t be retiring and should stick around with him. He reminisced about Kelterborn’s first campaign for mayor, noting he was pretty unsophisticated in those days.
“I think that was part of Ross’s charm,” Seiling said. “I remember going into the hall. Ross had his whole platform handwritten on bristol board on the wall.”
Seiling said Kelterborn always had a nice way of summarizing things in his way at regional council, and people appreciated that.
Township treasurer Theresa Bisch held up a red piggy bank, which she said Kelterborn used to remind the township staff of their duty to be fiscally responsible.
“So staff got together and thought this thing is pretty empty, so we all contributed towards filling this thing. We want you to take it and have some fun with what’s in it,” Bisch said.
Kevin Beggs, general manager of community services for the township, presented Kelterborn with more gifts from the township, including a sign with his last name on it. He also said now that he’s retired he’ll need to keep the sun off his thinking cap, so he gave him a township baseball hat.
“I think everyone knows Ross loves to walk,” Beggs said. “But he needs something so we know where he is. So we got you a vest.”
Ross also was given a framed photo of the council chambers from township clerk Grace Kosch to remind him of the many years spent there.
“To the staff at the township and the new council I wish you the best,” Kelterborn said. “You couldn’t get a better place to work and a better group of constituents.”