By Sue Tiffin
Back in October, Minden Hills Mayor Brent Devolin announced he wasn’t planning to seek a third term.
“I’ve ticked all the big boxes, it’s time to move on, and I’ve made plans for the next 10 years, probably my last 10 years of working and leaning into the community,” he said.
Devolin said the projects he wanted to see accomplished, including emergency planning for Minden Hills and a new fire hall, had been done. The only thing left, he said, was that he would have liked to be part of a discussion about amalgamation, which he has always publicly supported.
“Municipal governments and ratepayers are going to have to be prepared for what’s to come, which inevitably to me will come back to consolidation of municipal governments,” he said. “I think it’s going to be absolutely necessary for labour, I think for efficiencies of processes and those sorts of things. And it’s going to be probably in a reactionary mode, which, I’ve always thought it would be far better to be in a proactive mode for some of these changes.”
He said the service delivery review has been a “baby step in that direction,” but that he suspected the next term or two of council will need to take a “harder look at it,” and make some “tough decisions.”
After an “adventure bike” trip last year with his wife, Laurie, Devolin said he had three weeks to gain perspective.
“I’m a firm believer you need to make plans, be pragmatic about it in terms of the process,” he said. “By the time I came home, I thought, really, the things I think need to happen in the time frame are not going to happen. I was getting tired of dealing with complicated issues all the time. I was kind of at peace.”
Devolin said while there have been challenges, “If you look at the things that have transpired over the past eight years, in Minden, I say this with tongue in cheek, there’s been a lot of water under the bridge. There’ve been a lot of things that have happened, and mostly for the good.”
He said highlights for him include being a part of the Pan-Am Games in 2015, seeing projects built across the county and beyond including 14 housing facilities throughout the Haliburton County-City of Kawartha Lakes region and progress on the EORN project.
“Certainly after a tough few years, getting the arena built, I never dreamed that in the first year of being open we’d have a junior hockey team, and they’d make it to the second round of the playoffs and within an overtime goal of going to the third round,” he said. “Those are the wonderful things. It’s the little things too, somebody has a project or an idea that there’s an obstacle you help them remove, there’s a lot of good days. There’s a lot of good days.”
Devolin noted getting into municipal politics is not “a casual endeavour, by any means,” acknowledging his phone number is published publicly and his phone is with him 24/7.
“The complexities of municipal politics are no less than the complexities of provincial or federal politics,” he said. “There’s lots of times more zeroes added on the end, and I would argue the fact we’re closer and more within reach for the people on the street which increases some of those complexities. I think that we’re evolving to the state that – and it has happened in larger jurisdictions – municipal politics is a vocation. It’s not a part-time, evening gig on the side.”
Three of the four mayors in the county have announced they will not be seeking re-election.
“This is a transitional time, not only for those of us that have been there that are collectively leaving with the same departure, but the other part of it is, COVID and social media, there’s incremental change over time and then there’s paradigm shifts and this is a paradigm shift,” said Devolin. “We need younger politicians that are going to be in it for the long haul that will take up those challenges.”
Devolin said he is at peace and content with his decision and looks forward to watching the election unfold.
“I believe that there will be people that come forth that will bring new visions, and kind of, you know, everybody that tries to lead government has strengths and weaknesses,” he said. “I think I know some of the ones I’ve done well and I’m hoping there are some others that will step into the breach and where I’ve maybe had some weaknesses or voids in the agenda I brought forward, I hope they can build on some of those so that over the longer haul it’s the best thing for my community.”
Devolin said he looks forward to helping with a smooth transition for whoever replaces him.
“My intention until election day is to continue what I can do within the county and Minden Hills, and look forward to whoever replaces me … my interest is to have a smooth transition, as much information that I can convey that I thought I did rightly or wrongly, and that I will continue to be a resource for them for as long as they wish.”