By Mac Christie, Times-Advocate Staff
GODERICH – Huron County council voted to extend the warden’s term to two years starting after the next election.
Changing the warden’s term limits was one of the many recommendations in consultant George B. Cuff’s governance report to county council.
County council held a public meeting Nov. 7 as part of the process to change the bylaw. Although no members of the public attended, one letter was sent in favour of the change. Later, in a 9-6 vote council passed the bylaw.
Goderich Mayor Deb Shewfelt told council he supported the two-year term.
“I think we forget that we run close to a $100-million business,” he noted. “It’s more than kissing babies and cutting ribbons. We need to get a county council that’s active in development, that works with the lower tiers and you can’t do that by having somebody walking in for one year.”
Bluewater Deputy Mayor Paul Klopp said he was opposed to the change because of the increased time commitment.
“Everyone who I ever heard hadthe job said, ‘Wow, it’s a lot more commitment than I thought,’” he said, adding some qualified candidates may not run if the term is two years. “I think the system is working fairly well and I really think it does allow people to give their opinion once a year (in an election).”
Bluewater Mayor Bill Dowson agreed with Klopp, drawing on his own experience as warden.
“I cannot support making it a mandatory two-year term,” he explained.
“I’ve been there, I’ve been through it and I’m telling you, one year was enough for me.”
But Goderich Deputy Mayor John Grace said he supported a two-year term in light of the continuity it would provide.
“I think it provides a good solid base of continuity over a longer period of time,” he said. “It allows the warden to set some direction for council. You can’t set direction and lead if you just get up to speed and then you’re going to change your stripes and be back at council not as the warden.”
Central Huron Reeve Jim Ginn supported the two-year term, noting the county had gone through a difficult year with three senior staff placed on non-disciplinary administrative leave.
“Some of the problems we’ve uncovered in the relationship between council and senior administration, I lay a direct link between the one-year term and those problems,” he said. “I just think two years is a much better opportunity for the warden to make significant changes.”
The 2013 warden will be elected at the inaugural session of council Dec. 5. Thus far, MacLellan and South Huron Mayor George Robertson have declared their candidacy.