The home of Tillsonburg’s first mayor, E.D. Tillson, son of town founder George Tillson, was in the spotlight Sunday during the Mayor’s Levee at Annandale National Historic Site.
Tillsonburg Mayor Stephen Molnar thanked the event sponsor and organizer – Tillsonburg and District Historical Society – as well as the Annandale National Historic Site leadership team and volunteers, and special guests including Oxford Warden Larry Martin, several Town Councillors, representatives from the OPP Oxford County Detachment and EMS for organizing and attending another successful levee.
Special emphasis was placed on Sunday’s 20th annual levee at ANHS – in 2020 – hosted in the Corner Gallery, highlighting artwork from Oxford Creative Connections.
“I’m calling it the 20-20-20 and they’ve done a nice job,” said Molnar, noting that photos of each mayor going back to Cam McKnight (1991-2000), the first to celebrate the New Year’s Levee in Tillsonburg, were prominently displayed including Brenda Carroll, Irv Horton, John Lessif and Dave Beres. “They’ve done well decorating the Rita Corner Gallery.”
Molnar also recognized Bill Pratt, “who was there from Day 1” and was instrumental, along with his wife Marion and other Historical Society team members, establishing and preserving the levee tradition.
“It’s a pretty special, special moment here,” said Molnar, estimating nearly 100 people visited Sunday, including many Advisory Committee members “who do so much in the community” in a volunteer capacity.
“The exciting moments, in large part, are meeting new people to the community. You hear about why they chose Tillsonburg, things that they’ve observed, and maybe bringing their ideas from another community. And maybe how we can better connect when someone new does arrive so it makes their integration into the community a little better, a little smoother. So it was very positive that way.”
The levee is primarily a social gathering, as well the final opportunity to visit Annandale National Historic Site’s Christmas decorated rooms, however with the Mayor, Councillors and Town staff in attendance, it’s not surprising discussions sometimes get into local politics.
“I think there’s a light aspect to (political) questions. They could be questions about any aspect of service delivery, things that go on in the community, or ideas. And that’s one thing that is always encouraging. This is an environment where you get to have a discussion that stimulates options and ideas. You can have a conversation, listen, and learn. You can have conversation about how we can improve something, about what options are available. Maybe they’ve moved here from another community that was doing it differently and we as a community can learn that there are other ways of doing business. It’s not what this is about, but I think it’s an environment that is a little more accommodating to those types of discussions.”
On the Town Council front, the 2020 budget and business plan process is winding down, Molnar noted.
“We have a budget meeting tomorrow (Monday) and then, I think whether or not there’s another one called will be up to how far we get tomorrow. I believe that it will be the 27th of January that we would anticipate passing a business plan and the financial requirements to support it.”
Looking back at 2019, Molnar said it was important to be thankful for the progress made in town, from industrial expansion to a rejuvenated downtown, to new housing developments and social, cultural and recreational opportunities.
“2019 was a successful year, due in part to the engagement and participation of all our community stakeholders.”
Some 2019 highlights included the expansion of sustainable and accessible local transit, the introduction of the J.L. Scott McLean Outdoor Recreation Pad, and infrastructure projects both local and supported by Oxford County, the Province of Ontario, and federally.
“There will be challenges in 2020, however the spirit of our citizens in finding unique ‘Made in Tillsonburg’ solutions will continue to create an environment to protect Tillsonburg as an exciting place to live, work, play and invest.
“I remain excited about the local and regional opportunities to enhance service delivery to all stakeholders as a result of a County-wide review on the full range of responsibilities as provided for by our two-tier governance structure.”