By James Matthews
Leading in the best of times is difficult enough. Leading in these hard-scratch economic times takes a toll beyond my comprehension.
For the best leaders, anyway.
Newly minted mayors and councillors in Haliburton County municipalities have been sworn in, taken office. Algonquin Highlands Mayor Liz Danielsen made some interesting comments during her first meeting in the Big Chair.
“Anyone who has tossed their name into the political ring, even at this level, learns quickly that, while you can please a good percentage of the residents, whether seasonal or fulltime residents, we can never please everyone,” Danielsen said as part of her comments after swearing her oath of office. “If there is a divide, then we need to work together to close that gap and assure everyone that we are making decisions in the best interest of the municipality over all.”
And that’s one of the hallmarks of good leadership: Decisions based outside your own appetites.
Highlands East Mayor Dave Burton had a somewhat radical idea. He suggested at their inaugural meeting that a new central town hall be constructed. The existing scattered buildings that house municipal staff would be turned into some form of housing.
I’m sure such a move isn’t as easy at it sounds. But it’s that outside-the-box thinking that many leaders lack.
Dysart et al Mayor Murray Fearrey kicked off the term with the acknowledgement the new council has a full plate of tasks before it. Hard days borne of staff shortages, the many municipal projects started, and a desperate need for recreation facilities. He said the provincewide troubles in the health care system have touched lives locally. And then there’s the worrisome housing deficit.
“We’ve got a lot of people that are hurting,” Fearrey said. “We’ve got a lot on our plate.”
That’s the depth of empathy that should inform all leadership and every political and corporate level.
Those are the impressions of three of the four county mayors.
Along with Minden Hills Mayor Bob Carter, they will form an upper tier authority that will wade through issues for the betterment of Haliburton County as a whole, nevermind individual municipal populations.
There are leaders who realize the weight of the responsibility to make choices that favour the greater good. To speak for others. They don’t buckle to circumstance. Instead, they try to change the circumstances or get a bead on the best track through a particular circumstances.
Those of us who would buckle, we’re the ones usually curled in a fetal position at the foot of the bed all hours of the night, shivering uncontrollably with a mouth full of thumb. Trying to crunch the numbers in a way we can convince ourselves will work.
That’s why most of us bucklers, we stay from the fray. And that’s not to say everybody who vies for political office at any level are best suited to the task, either. I think we all know that. Their ambition comes from a secret place they don’t talk about and, perhaps, even they don’t know. Not fully.
Haliburton County’s residents have councils beginning afresh to face however the next four years will unfold, to work their towns through the hurdles for the benefit of the majority. That’s a heavy responsibility. Why people would campaign to shoulder such a yoke, I’ll never know. They’re better people than me, I guess.
But good leaders aren’t cowed by the responsibility. The greatest leaders know the weight, see beyond their own noses, and that’s exactly why they’re the best people to lead.