/Moffatt announces she won’t seek re-election
Mayor Carol Moffatt has announced she will not seek re-election in the coming term, after 16 years of public service. /Photo submitted

Moffatt announces she won’t seek re-election

By Sue Tiffin

It’s an end of an era in Algonquin Highlands, with Mayor Carol Moffatt announcing she doesn’t intend to seek re-election this year after 16 years of public service.

“While I’m passionately drawn to participating in what’s ahead for the Haliburton Highlands, it’s no secret to many that I’ve been at a personal crossroads for some time now,” said Moffatt in an announcement made April 23. “As the days have ticked along, it’s become very clear that ‘some day’ is now, so I’m choosing to shift my focus to the many personal pursuits I’ve set aside throughout 16 years of public service. It’s been a tremendously difficult decision.”

Moffatt told the Times after the announcement that she felt “a bit numb,” after having “wrestled with this decision a long time.”

“I’ve taken this commitment extremely seriously and I’ve worked really hard, and it feels like a breakup for me,” she said. “It’s a job that requires a huge commitment and I’ve done that but I just don’t feel I can give it that amount anymore, and I think for me, it would be unfair to keep going when I know I’m not going to be able – for a variety of reasons – to put in the effort that I have for the past 16 years.”

Moffatt first ran for council in 1994, losing by 21 votes. When she ran again in 2006, she had a landslide win, then in 2010 was acclaimed as reeve, with her three terms as head of council – in 2010, 2014 and 2018 – being acclaimed.

Becoming part of the decision-making was of interest to Moffatt after she had become immersed in the community through volunteer work involving economic development, trails, literacy, the creation of the Stanhope museum, and the restoration of a provincially significant heritage site, the Hawk Lake log restoration.

“It just seemed like the next step,” she said.

As a first-time reeve in 2010, Moffatt’s council was made up of four brand new councillors. She said Angie Bird, CAO, still has a list Moffatt created of 84 things she wanted to see changed or reviewed or updated in regards to policies. There wasn’t a guide for new councillors, so Moffatt wrote one, a plain-spoken comprehensive document to help guide newcomers. While it’s been updated by clerks since, it’s still in use.

Moffatt has a strong background and interest in communication, and became the first publicly elected official in Haliburton County to join social media, always wanting to help the public understand what she refers to as “a thick soup of process.”

“One of my strengths is the communication part,” she said. “As ideas were being developed, I was always one to put up my hand and say, how are we going to tell the public about that? Even with the shoreline bylaw, where’s the Coles notes version, where’s the FAQ, where are the pieces that inform the public so they better understand what we’re talking about, because our work can be so entrenched in legislation and legalese that it’s confusing.”

Thinking through her terms in office, Moffatt highlights the work done to bring the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry fire response base to the Stanhope airport; her work as warden in 2013 in improving what were then communication silos between the Trent-Severn Waterway and MNR during flooding – Moffatt had a map of the area pinned in her kitchen that she tracked water levels on each morning, and took a flight over the flooded area, later sharing photos with the public through her social media page – and said it was notable that it was the first time the prime minister had phoned Haliburton County when he did so after Algonquin Highlands council began this term as an all-woman council.

“The things I’ve enjoyed the most have been the projects,” said Moffatt. “At the county, I was the lead on the OPP billing reform protest, I was the lead on the rail trail working group, very involved in the development of the tourism director job, I’ve written and presented delegations at conferences, and most recently I guess things like the safety and wellbeing plan detachment board for OPP, I love those projects. Give me a project, anytime.”

Moffatt said she has always enjoyed collaborative development.

“I love working with a small group that sees an opportunity for an outcome and then finds the way to achieve that outcome that is in the community’s best interest,” she said. “That’s what I like.”

Moffatt hopes to engage in more of that collaborative development and also working on her own personal “big, long list” of things she wants to do, noting, “they’re not small projects.”

“Politics is an oddly captivating challenge that I’ll certainly miss being involved in – and there will undoubtedly be days when I’ll question this choice but for right now, it’s the right one for me,” said Moffatt. “I’m excited for the revival of unfinished projects and the start of new ones. There are histories to preserve, photographs to make, stories to write and many roads to travel.”

She said while she has enjoyed her political life, it’s important for her to make time to do the other things she wants to do in life, too, alongside her supportive husband Tony, noting it’s been hard for her to do that given that she’s not always able to manage a healthy life-work balance.

“There’s a lot of very personally compelling reasons to step aside and focus on self and family and I think most people would understand that,” she said. “The challenge is, I’m still so excited about all of the things that are happening, and there are projects that I won’t see the end of and I’m sorry for that but there will always be projects you won’t see the end of.”

She also said she believes in term limits, and said “there are others who are showing promise and they need their chance to shine.”

“Being on council isn’t for the faint of heart, and yet we need people full of heart to do it,” she said. “To those seeking office this fall: be strong, fair, responsive and open-minded. Work to build better forward, and remember that the correct decisions are rarely the popular ones. To those voting this fall: choose flexible, forward thinkers with broad knowledge who can listen and work as a team toward progress.”
Moffatt said that until the new council is sworn in on Nov. 15, “my commitment to governance is steadfast; and I’ll work toward a collaborative leadership transition.”

“I’m grateful for this amazing experience and extend my heartfelt thanks to members of council, to staff, and especially to the public for putting their faith in me over these many years,” she said.