Befitting the honeymoon period that follows an election, there was nothing but smiles and goodwill at the first meeting of Woolwich’s new council Tuesday night. Basking in the glow of a Lions Hall decked out for Christmas, councillors were sworn in before a gathering of family and friends.While there may be some rocky patches over the next four years, there was nothing but optimism throughout an evening that began with the new councillors – Mayor Sandy Shantz, Ward 1’s Scott Hahn and Patrick Merlihan, Ward 2’s Mark Bauman, Ward 3’s Murray Martin and Larry Shantz – being led in by piper Doug Davidson. Val Hummel, the township’s long-time deputy clerk and newly-minted clerk, presided over the evening.
In her inaugural address, Mayor Sandy Shantz pledged to lead a council representative of township values, one based on cooperation – “When we disagree, we’ll do it with all due respect.”
Woolwich, with its small-town spirit, sense of place and access to the cities, is well positioned to thrive even as changes come to the region, she noted.
“We are so very blessed here. We have the proximity to the city and all the amenities that that offers, But we also have much to offer the cities. Let’s continue to be creative in how we share our resources with others, while also protecting those same resources,” she said.
Pointing to the urban area’s loss of connection to the land, Shantz said the township’s agricultural heritage is a resource.
“Let’s look for ways to continue to encourage and grow our agricultural and entrepreneurial enterprises.”
Shantz noted that Woolwich is a collection of communities of various sizes, each with its own history but often with a shared sense of community.
“Community is what brings us together. It’s about helping a neighbour. It’s about working together. It’s about greeting the same person at the arena, the grocery store, gas station, church and school. Our spheres overlap a lot here in the township. We want to continue to create ways in which we can come together, work together and play together.”
Looking to the business ahead, she said a good council will have frank and open discussion about the issues, soliciting input from a variety of sources and weighing it appropriately. The overarching concern is serving the public.
“Council represents the will of the people, and we will need to put our best wisdom to bear on the decisions that we will have to make,” she said.
“We hope that four years from now we can say that we have been a good council.”
Good governance was on the minds of her fellow council members, with Coun. Scott Hahn noting that reflecting the public’s issues will be a top priority.
“I promise to listen to your concerns.”
Ward 3 Coun. Larry Shantz, like Hahn, a first time councillor, said the position comes with responsibility.
“Woolwich Township, comprised of larger and smaller communities, is truly a unique place with both a rich heritage and a bright future. Representing Ward 3, I want to bring focus and equality to the smaller communities. Beyond Ward 3, I want to ensure Woolwich Township does not spend beyond our means, while maintaining current service levels.”
Looking at council’s makeup, Ward 3 Coun. Murray Martin said he sees a good balance of experience and newcomers. That’s something he knows about, returning to council after a four-year absence. He previously spent 16 years as a councillor.
This week’s inaugural celebrations out of the way, the new council will get down to business, starting with the 2015 budget deliberations, in the new year.