By Chad Ingram
Published Oct. 5 2017
Haliburton County has its second mayor.
During a Sept. 28 meeting councillors for Minden Hills township voted to change the title of head of council from “reeve” to “mayor” and its “deputy-reeve” to “deputy mayor.”
In July Algonquin Highlands council became the first of the county’s four lower-tier councils to make the title switch one which many politicians feel is a long overdue modernization.
“I have some reasons for forwarding this motion” said Councillor Jeanne Anthon who brought the issue forward. “Historically a reeve is head of council in small … municipalities and traditionally had different responsibilities from larger municipalities where they had council heads called mayor.”
Reeve is a centuries’ old term dating back to rural England and in recent decades many Ontario municipalities that once used the term have adopted the title mayor.
“I feel that especially subsequent to amalgamation this municipality is responsible for many of the same legislated responsibilities as larger municipalities” Anthon said. “And as I mentioned before considering that one municipality has already moved ahead and I believe the rest of municipalities have indicated they will follow suit I believe it best serves our community to expedite these changes sooner than later. I wouldn’t want to see this become an election issue and I can perceive that some people might want to do so and I don’t think that’s a necessary impediment.”
Anthon also said the continuation of the use of the term “reeve” causes unnecessary confusion among those unfamiliar with the term.
“There’s a confusion out there that doesn’t have to exist” she said.
Unfamiliarity with the term in other communities and some people believing that a reeve meant a mayor-in-training was one reason cited by Algonquin Highlands councillors when they made the change in their municipality during the summer.
Other councillors were on board for the name change.
“I think it’s long overdue” said Councillor Pam Sayne adding it would improve communications.
“Any time you have to begin a conversation to explain what the title of what you do is first thing it’s a huge impediment to get on with the substance of what you’re talking about” said Reeve Brent Devolin. “To the point where I’ll be honest with government officials with people that I talk to in the public that I know are not local or haven’t been around a long time I don’t even refer to the position as reeve anymore.”
Devolin said he’d be happy to not have to offer the explanation over and over again.
“Over the years I’ve been called many things” quipped Deputy-reeve Cheryl Murdoch. “Deputy-reeve is one of the more complimentary things that I’ve been called.”
Murdoch added that “The title is important but what’s more important is what you do with it while you’re here.”
Councillor Jean Neville asked what kind of financial implications would be involved with changing the titles.
Treasurer and chief administrative officer Lorrie Blanchard said there could be minor legal fees as well as costs for the printing of new business cards.