By Chad Ingram
Two members of Haliburton County council would like to be warden for 2021, meaning county councillors will participate in an election to determine who will become head of council for the upcoming year.
Haliburton County council consists of the mayors and deputy mayors of each of the county’s four lower-tier municipalities. Each December, members select from amongst themselves the councillor who will serve as warden, the head of county council, for the upcoming year. Traditionally, this takes place at an in-person meeting, but amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, that election, and a subsequent inaugural meeting, will take place virtually.
During a Nov. 25 online council meeting, councillors received nomination forms from Minden Hills Mayor Brent Devolin and Algonquin Highlands Deputy Mayor Liz Danielsen, each expressing interest in occupying the warden’s chair for 2021. Danielsen has been deputy mayor of Algonquin Highlands since 2010 and has served as warden for 2019 and 2020. Devolin has been mayor of Minden Hills since 2014 and previously served as warden in 2017.
“County council has reached the mid-point of our term, and the second half of the term will likely involve significant changes and challenges, as to how municipal government operates and delivers services,” Devolin said. He and Danielsen were each given 10 minutes to address their colleagues. Councillors received a service delivery review for the county and its lower-tier municipalities from Toronto-based consulting firm StrategyCorp later that day.
“COVID-19, evolving regulatory requirements, rapid population growth, both seasonal and permanent, tight labour markets and future diminishing federal and provincial funding will require an evolution of how municipal governments will function in the near and distant future,” Devolin said.
“Service delivery reviews, asset management, working from a distance, using technology and connectivity while moving to a more paperless approach to operations offer an opportunity to take a proactive stance to shape and form the county for the future,” he continued. “ … Municipal leaders must be mindful to not lose the benefits of the current structure and operations, while endeavouring to achieve actual positive results in the changes that may be considered.”
In her speech, Danielsen acknowledged it would be unusual for a member of county council to be warden for three consecutive years, and said she thought maintaining consistency during the ongoing pandemic would be helpful for council.
“I do acknowledge fully that extending my term might seem rather extraordinary to some,” Danielsen said. “ … I do believe I’ve served the county well in an open, transparent and business-like fashion and my focus has always been on ensuring that the business at hand is taken care of, and I follow the agreed-upon will and path of council.”
“I know that you’ve all had difficult times as a result of the pandemic, the workload has been immense, and we’ve all just had to slog through it,” she continued. “ . . . For me, one of the most compelling arguments for me continuing the position is continuity, and I’ve made this point to all of you. I believe that continuity is vital. We do remain under a state of local emergency, and I’ve been working closely with all of the department heads since early March. And continuity during such times brings consistency in decision-making, and I truly believe that it’s helpful for staff as they’ve been managing their way through these uncertain times.”
Councillors will be submitting virtual ballots with their votes, and the 2021 warden will be announced at an inaugural meeting on Dec. 15.