Once they decided how they wanted to do it, it didn't take Tillsonburg Town Council long to install Councillor Dave Beres as the new interim mayor.
With the recent resignation of Mayor John Lessif, six months before the end of his term, council was required to fill the vacant mayor's chair within 60 days, giving them a deadline of July 11th. A special council meeting was held Friday morning to examine its options, and Donna Wilson, town clerk, outlined three possibilities – nominating someone already on council (Option A), appointing an eligible elector or the next runner-up from the 2010 election (Option B), or advertising for the position (Option C).
Councillor Chrissy Rosehart voiced her opposition to 'Option A.'
"I would like the chair filled by someone who is not sitting up here now," said Rosehart. "A person who will have no conflict with what's happening, and will be able to understand the process... and will carry us forward in the next six months, which I think is very important. I feel that we need to still move forward and represent the people in this community – with respect – and offer all we can to County as well."
Councillor Brian Stephenson suggested council choose Option A due to time sensitive issues on the calendar.
"I think it is time sensitive and I think we have to move on," said Stephenson. "We need somebody in the chair for the next five months who is knowledgeable about what's going on so we can finish up this mandate."
Councillor Mel Getty agreed with Rosehart's comments in principle, but leaned toward filling the vacancy from within.
"I have opinions on it, thoughts on it, but I have to look beyond my personal beliefs sometimes and think about the community," said Getty. "Our purpose being here is to do the work for the community the very best we can, in a timely manner, and as efficiently we can.
"I've put a lot of thought into it, I've played scenarios in my mind, and I think the best purpose to serve the community is if we accept this option (Option A), replace the mayor as quickly as possible, and then start the next process to replace that person's position at this table. The town's business will continue and flow rather smoothly. So I do agree with Councillor Rosehart, there's a lot of merit to that, but when I analyze it... I think the option we have up before us now is the option to go."
"I feel the position should be (filled) from within," said Councillor Dave Beres, senior member of council with experience going back to his first councillor term in 1994. "Whoever takes this position, I'm sure will use the resources of other councillors here to make it strong as possible, and to maintain status quo as far as the direction of council over the next nine meetings. I think it's going to be a great team effort..."
With the majority of councillors agreeing with Option A, council moved on to nominations. Stephenson nominated Beres, who accepted, and Councillor Marty Klein nominated Getty, who declined.
"I would be honored to be the interim mayor, but I have to decline," said Getty, "simply because this was unexpected, and I have other things in my life that are time consuming and I can't juggle that. I basically don't have the time required to do the position of mayor proper justice to the citizens of this community. I can do the position of councillor, and do it well with the time limits I have, I just can't take that (mayor) position. So thank you for the nomination, I would have loved it being your interim mayor, but I won't be able to do with the full duty that it requires."
Mayoral candidates Klein and Deputy Mayor Mark Renaud had already withdrawn their names from the interim nomination process and, being the only nominated candidate, Beres was voted interim mayor with a recorded vote (5-1). Wilson presented the Oath of Office, and after taking the oath Beres was presented the mayor's chain of office.
"Thanks for the kind words to all of you, I thank you for your support and your trust in me," said Mayor Beres following closing remarks from the councillors. "I certainly won't let you down."
Beres outlined some of the things he brings to the table as interim mayor.
"I have a good working relationship with the present council, with the town staff, and the current issues, and I want to make that very clear to the people of Tillsonburg. I have a working relationship with local businesses through my business. And above all, a respectful relationship with the people of Tillsonburg.
"During this interim I am going to ask all of my fellow councillors to share many of the responsibilities and decision making, both here in town and at county council. Our previous mayor did this as a full-time job... I am not going to do that. I am going to work more as a team organization.
"I do not have a personal agenda. I'd like to see council continue the good work that it has in the last three-and-a-half years until the end of the term.
"I'm very much looking forward to this process, the next few months – nine meetings," said Beres following the 55-minute meeting. "This council has a mandate and my intention here is to continue that mandate until the end of the term.
"Without a doubt the most important issue coming up is on May 14th, the meeting on the disposition on Tillsonburg Hydro. Hopefully, as the moderator of that meeting, I will make sure everything is covered before we're done, that council will have something to go on prior to making that decision."
The joint decision to withdraw from consideration for interim mayor, said Deputy Mayor Renaud, was not based on one of them becoming the incumbent in the 2014 mayoral race.
"I think the issue for me wasn't so much it gives one or the other an advantage," said Renaud after Friday morning's meeting. "To me the differentiation is that I did not want the present council to be split between one way or the other for the position of interim mayor, because I don't think that would have been conducive to any teamwork, in terms of advancing the agenda from now until November.
"So any advantage was a very small consideration. I was more worried about asking people on the current council to select the current mayor from one of the two candidates already running. It can be very devisive. We've seen that happen in the past – it didn't end well. We have some very important items coming up on the agenda, and the last thing I wanted to do was ask council to choose between Marty and myself. It would have fractured the council, and the community, in my mind, has to come first."