/New chapter for Murdoch 
Cheryl Murdoch holds her farewell gift from Haliburton County council. Murdoch served on Minden Hills council for 15 years 13 of those years on county council as well and was a school board trustee for more than 20 years before that. /CHAD INGRAM Staff

New chapter for Murdoch 

By Chad Ingram
Published Dec. 13, 2018 
Minden Hills deputy mayor Cheryl Murdoch foresees travel and
volunteerism in her future, as she reflects on nearly four decades in
public office. 
Her career in civic life began not around a municipal council table, but a school board table. 
working as a teacher in Peterborough and Toronto, Murdoch moved back to
her hometown of Minden, where she also taught for a few years. By then a
mother, she first became a trustee with what was the Haliburton County
School Board in 1978. 
thought I’d like to be able to stay home with the children until they
were back in school,” she says. While the kids eventually went off to
the classroom, “I never went back to teaching,” Murdoch says. “When the
kids went to school, I just stayed with the school board. I felt there
was more power at the school board to do good stuff for education than I
could ever do as a teacher.” 
would ultimately serve 19 years on the county school board, many of
them as its chairwoman. In 1997, the county’s school board was merged
with the school boards of Muskoka and Victoria County (what is today the
City of Kawartha Lakes) to create the amalgamated Trillium Lakelands
District School Board. 
Murdoch was heavily involved in that process, chairing the strategic planning committee in the lead-up to amalgamation. 
was difficult because everybody thought they had the best scenario,”
she says. “And the big thing was for us to convince them, let’s take the
best of all three, and take it forward. And when we were doing
strategic planning, we couldn’t vote on anything; we had to have
Chuckling, she adds, “Do you have any idea how difficult that could be?” 
was then elected Haliburton County’s sole trustee on the new Trillium
Lakelands District School Board, and would serve as its first
chairperson for two of the three years she spent there. 
lived in a car and drove all over,” she recalls. “Twelve thousand
square kilometres. Sixty-two schools. I think back now, I don’t really
know how I did it.” 
From 2000 to 2003, Murdoch took a break from public life, before deciding to try her hand at municipal politics. 
“I guess I’ve always had a political interest, so I said, you know what? I’m going to try it again,” she said. 
was elected to Minden Hills council as councillor at large in the 2003
municipal election. Just over a year later, she would move into the role
of what was then deputy reeve, after Reeve Ross Rigney had a stroke
that prevented him from continuing his political duties. Jim McMahon had
been the deputy reeve at the time, so he automatically assumed the
reeve’s chair. Councillors then voted a new deputy reeve from their
ranks, that councillor being Murdoch. 
deputy reeve position (now referred to as deputy mayor) was one she
would reclaim in the 2006, 2010 and 2014 municipal elections, sometimes
by acclamation and sometimes by contest. She did not run for re-election
this past October.  
back on a decade and a half on Minden Hills council, Murdoch counts the
creation of the Minden Riverwalk among the top achievements. The
walking path winds its way along the Gull River through downtown Minden,
allowing pedestrians to travel a circuit that includes the Loggers’
Crossing footbridge. The Riverwalk project also included connecting
Invergordon Avenue to the Minden Hills Cultural Centre via a boardwalk. 
Minden Hills, I would say Riverwalk is my biggest accomplishment in my
time there,” says Murdoch, who was a member of the Riverwalk committee. 
far as I’m concerned, it’s not finished yet,” she says, adding she’d
like to see the pathway extended along the river up to Rotary Park.
“It’s not done, in my mind, until it goes all the way to Rotary Park.” 
thing in Minden Hills I take great pride in, it took 10 years to get
there, is the new fire hall,” Murdoch says. The $2-million facility
along Highway 35 opened this past summer, and Murdoch gave a speech at
its opening ceremony, paying homage to the community’s volunteer
County council is comprised of the mayors and deputy mayors of the
county’s four lower tier townships, so most of Murdoch’s municipal
career also involved sitting as a councillor at the upper tier. 
the county level, Murdoch says one of the things she’s most proud of is
the rejuvenation of its public library system, which has included the
construction of new facilities and the addition of modern services and
programming during the past decade. 
become all things to all people,” Murdoch says. “We’ve got three new
libraries, and I give great accolades to [library CEO] Bessie Sullivan
and her staff. They’ve done a fabulous job.” 
She also cites the construction of the county EMS base along Highway 35, the facility opening in 2015. 
“It took us a long time to find some property and get that thing in the ground,” Murdoch says. 
major challenge at the upper-tier level has been the downloading of
responsibilities – social services and housing, ambulance funding, etc. –
to municipalities, without accompanying financial assistance. Murdoch
says it’s a challenge that will remain an ongoing one. 
from the upper levels of government, and lack of major funding from the
upper-tier governments . . . I think the municipalities and the county,
they’re going to have to, whatever it is they want to do, find ways to
raise funds beyond the funding we used to get,” she says, noting that
level of funding has dropped substantially in recent years. “You get a
little bit, but nothing major.” 
Another ongoing challenge in a cottage community will be balancing the needs of full-time and seasonal residents. 
“Their needs are different,” Murdoch says. “Some are similar, but some are very different.”
protection of lake health is also of perennial importance, she says,
since it is the foundation upon which everything in the county sits. 
In her view, is it time for an amalgamation of the municipalities of Haliburton County into a single-tier government? 
don’t know if complete single-tier is the answer,” Murdoch says, “but I
do truly believe that what we have now needs to be improved upon, and
move more towards single-tier. There is too much duplication with
equipment, fire halls, everything, and there’s got to be some savings.” 
is asked for something she thinks a lot of residents might not realize
about being a municipal politician in Haliburton County.  
think a lot of people don’t realize that when you’re budgeting, over
half the money is already spoken for,” Murdoch said, indicating that
between staff wages and benefits, OPP requisitions, EMS funding, social
services, etc., there is far less money in the pot for municipal
projects than residents might realize. “You’ve got no control over what
you’ve got to do, it’s got to be paid,” she says. 
also says that municipal governments have less control in general than
some might think, that they are creatures of the province, and therefore
bound by provincial legislation. 
bylaws you have to abide by, all the laws, all kinds of things that you
can’t mess with, that you have to abide by,” she says. “We’re
grassroots, we have simple politics as grassroots. We’re the lowest of
the low on the totem pole, which, to me, is the best, because we’re the
ones who deal with the people directly. I go to town, I go to the
grocery store, or the post office or whatever, and everybody wants to
talk, and that’s part of my job, and I feel that any councillor should
understand that people want to talk to you. You’re there for the people.
If you’re not truly going to care about the people, you’re in the wrong
After a total of 37 years in public office, what will Murdoch do now? 
I’m not going to any more meetings,” she says with a laugh. “It’s a big
relief not to go to any more meetings. I’ve been to thousands of them. I
have a personal bucket list. I’ve completed my business bucket list  –
the fire hall was the last thing. I would like to travel. I’ve seen a
lot of Canada, my own country, but I’d like to see more of it.” 
also plans to get back into community volunteering, and says she’s
already received interest from a number of organizations. However, she’d
like to make it clear that any volunteer activities come with this
caveat: “I’ve already told people, if you’re looking for me to go to
more meetings, if that’s what’s involved . . . I’m sorry!”