By James Matthews, Local Journalism Initiative Program
Haliburton County council voted to stay its course and continue with its most familiar warden at the helm.
The upper tier council chose to return Algonquin Highlands Mayor Liz Danielsen as warden for another one-year term. She was elected over Minden Hills Mayor Bob Carter.
Danielsen has been elected to the warden’s chair for five years, which is a Haliburton County record.
“I fully acknowledge that I’ve held the position for an unprecedented period of time,” Danielsen said. “But then again these last few years have truly been unprecedented times.”
During her tenure, the county implemented septic inspection programs and passed the Shoreline Preservation Bylaw.
“Both to the greatest extent possible to protect the health of our lakes,” she said. “Lakes that form the foundation of our economy, not to mention our personal health and well-being.”
County council completed a service delivery review and have set eyes on a course toward achieving efficiencies and future success, she said. But she acknowledged that there is still work to be done.
“We still have to complete the establishment of the much-anticipated police board,” Danielsen said. “We’re also finally reaching completion of the draft short-term rental bylaw—another piece of extremely contentious legislation.”
County staff is the most important resource, she said.
“And one that we need to have very careful regard for,” she said.
Algonquin Highlands has its municipal house in order, she said, and that enables her to maintain a steely focus on county issues.
It’s been questioned whether the position of warden should be term-elected or have a sort of turn-taking mechanism to fill the seat.
“Depending on the circumstances, is it not better for council to consider who the best suited candidate is to be at the head of the table rather than simply acquiescing to whose turn it is?” Danielsen said.
“Taking turns isn’t always the right direction. Who you feel is the right candidate for a given time is.”
Danielsen was nominated to continue as warden or another year by Dysart Mayor Murray Fearrey and Highlands East Mayor Dave Burton.
At the foundation of his choice of nominee is three important things, Fearrey said. They are job performance, experience, and communication.
He said Danielsen’s performance in the Big Chair over the last year has been more than excellent.
“She attends everything she should attend and even some time things, probably, that she doesn’t really need to but is important to the county,” Fearrey said, and added that she cares just as much about the county as she does her township.
Fearrey has seen over the last 40 years that there have been few communicators as good as Danielsen.
“She listens to us all,” he said. “She doesn’t necessarily agree with us all, but she finds a compromise. That’s what being warden is all about.”
In making his case to be warden, Carter said most people don’t like change, but it’s inevitable. Change is seen in employment, government, climate, the level of health service, the manner of health care, and in legislation.
“We have a couple of questions,” Carter said. “The questions are how do we adapt to the change and how do we deal with it?”
Rural community councils have a more difficult scratch than colleagues in larger urban centres.
“We don’t have a large industrial or commercial base that serves as a foundation for our revenues,” he said. “Any dollars that we get have to come from the residents of Haliburton County.”
Many of those people are trying to make ends meet with fixed incomes, seasonal work, or with the traditionally lower wages from the service industry.
“We have to make sure that every dollar we get from those people is spent wisely and is spent correctly,” he said.
He said there is wonderful people in the county, volunteers and staff. They have to be utilized as best as possible.
“We have to work better together,” Carter said. “We have to work better together with other communities across Ontario, particularly in eastern Ontario. And we have to work together better here in Haliburton County. We have to try to spend the money as wisely as we can.
“Those are the areas of most importance to me. Those are the areas I would like to focus on.”
Carter was nominated by Algonquin Highlands Deputy Mayor Jennifer Dailloux and Minden Hills Deputy Mayor Lisa Schell.
Schell said she’s worked with Carter for five years and he’s proven his dedication to his role in that time.
She said Danielsen has done a fine job as warden, but she chose to nominate Carter “to keep with the original intent of the warden’s position in that it be shared amongst the four municipalities during the term of council by all interested candidates.”
Though she nominated Carter, Schell acknowledged that the county will be in good hands for the next year regardless of the contest’s outcome.
Dailloux, who serves as Danielsen’s deputy mayor but put Carter’s name in the hat for warden, declined to comment about her choice of nominee.