As of Tuesday, April 2nd, it has been 120 days since I was sworn in as a Councillor for Wilmot Township. Shortly after the swearing-in, people began asking me what being a Councillor is like. They want to know if it’s what I expected, if I am still happy to have been elected and if I am enjoying it.
My answer to all of those questions is an unequivocal YES! How could I not love serving this community that I love so much?
Being a Councillor is a lot of work. It isn’t all the cliche “kissing babies and shaking hands”. It is enjoyable work though. Everything from learning more about how our waste is dealt with and the challenges our region faces with waste stream management, to reviewing the entire zoning bylaw (a huge binder!) is interesting to me.
So here’s what I’ve been up to.
We have had:
- 5 regular Council Meetings (plus the inaugural meeting)
- 4 Budget Committee Meetings
- Multiple orientation and training sessions to familiarise ourselves with staff, specific Wilmot Township procedures and legislated responsibilities
I have answered emails, phone calls and met with residents to address concerns they have about a variety of topics some of them personal and some of them community issues such as invasive species of plants threatening our local ecosystem.
With the support of Council and staff I have started the Wilmot Trails Committee and revised the formerly staff-only Sustainability Working Group to include a member of Council (lucky me to be that member!) and two Waterloo Region residents with expertise in the field. We had our first meeting on March 27th! Watch for social media posts from all of us about trails we already have and plans for new projects as they develop. Follow the official twitter account @wilmottrails to get even more updates.
I was appointed to the Heritage Wilmot Committee and Healthy Wilmot.
It was my pleasure to be part of the Heritage Day event as a member of the Heritage Committee. History has always been an interest for me and I am looking forward to the involvement with this committee as an opportunity to learn more about our local history.
Our Township has had the usual level of late-winter thawing resulting in flooding of low-lying areas. The Nith River running through our township is an untamed reminder of how much we are dependent on weather and climate. It has been gratifying to be part of supporting and communicating with residents through these disruptions. Our township staff have done their jobs well in managing and communicating through it all.
Wilmot Township staff organised a great openhouse to talk with residents about flooding concerns and a variety of solutions to consider that can mitigate the damage caused by the annual floods. We had insurance, personal emergency preparedness displays, the GRCA and all the relevant Township departments on hand to talk about ideas and answer questions from residents.
My own bridge on my driveway floods as part of this annual cycle and the ice chunks often get stuck on the deck as the water recedes. I don’t mind too much when it gives me the chance to drive my tractor on a beautiful sunny day to clear it!
This is just one example of how my personal life intersects with the issues that matter to Wilmot residents. Living on the river means I am always watching the flow rates to know when it will flood.
My daily work on my family farm is not completely unlike the job of Councillor. My day starts between 7-8:00am depending on the particular items on my agenda. At my desk I review policies that enable our business to be compliant with various regulations governing employment, food safety and farming. I read legislation that pertains to our business and prepare responses to federal and provincial government requests for feedback. I respond to questions from people who buy our produce and want to know how we grow it or why something is packaged a certain way or many other questions about food and farming. When there’s a problem with quality, a process or difficulty between two co-workers, I help solve the problem. You can find me working on the farm till around 5:30 or 6:00 most days unless I have a business meeting offsite or for Council.
For my job as Councillor, my day starts when I wake up. I check my phone, read emails and check social media. If there’s a quick response possible to a question, I reply right away. Through the day at the farm, I periodically check emails and other messages and respond as I can depending on my other work. If staff have questions or I want to ask something of township staff, I try to keep it to the business hours to respect their work life balance. On weekends and evenings I spend hours reading documents to prepare for meetings. When the Council Meeting Agenda package arrives in my inbox, I read it through quickly. Then I reread it more slowly to absorb the content better. I read it a third time to make notes and prepare questions. If my questions require a lengthier response, I generally let staff know ahead of time so they can prepare the information. That enables them to have a good answer in the meeting.
Before I was on Council, I was busy with my farm, family and various community events. Now, I am still busy working on the farm, spending time with family and friends and doing a lot more around the community. It’s busy and sometimes intense, but it’s rewarding and it is my honour to serve you.