By Pauline Kerr
At the April 12 meeting of council, the seat of the mayor was declared vacant.
Under the Ontario Municipal Act, council has 60 days after the declaration to appoint a person to fill the vacancy, or pass a bylaw requiring a by-election to fill the vacancy. The deadline would be June 11.
The person appointed or elected to fill the vacancy will hold the office for the remainder of the term of the person he or she replaces.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time that this council has faced the situation. After the death of Deputy Mayor Marie Wilson, council decided to appoint a member of the current council to fill the position of deputy mayor – Randy Roppel. Council then filled the council seat left vacant through an application process; Dorne Fitzsimmons was chosen.
Shortly after the resignation of Mayor Anne Eadie, a group of local citizens began to organize to ensure their voices are heard in the process of choosing a new mayor.
Monday evening, April 19, a delegation representing the Our Kincardine group – Meag Durkin, Christina Wahi and Kristin Beaton – expressed their views that a by-election is necessary for the democratic process to be properly served. They backed it with a petition that as of Saturday had over 500 names (collected on paper and online).
On Sunday prior to the meeting, Beaton and another group member Sarah Patterson discussed the group and its views.
They stressed that members come from all parts of Kincardine, both rural and urban. Some have lived in all three wards. They are politically active, “concerned, informed citizens who want more accessible and accountable local politics.”
To them, that means a by-election. They stated clearly that Acting Mayor Randy Roppel has not been elected by the people of the municipality. He was acclaimed to his position on council and then chosen by fellow council members to serve as deputy mayor.
Beaton and Patterson stressed they have nothing against Roppel. Should he choose to run for mayor in a by-election, they would welcome that. It is the process that concerns them.
They said the office of mayor is “unique and important” since the mayor does much more than preside over council meetings. The mayor represents the municipality at the county level and with senior levels of government, serving as head of the business and political entity that is the municipality.
With over a third of the present council term remaining, they said it’s important for citizens to have their say in deciding who their mayor is.
The cost of holding a by-election – which they quoted at $53,000 – is small, a veritable drop in the bucket, compared to the value of the democratic process, according to Beaton.