It took some time, but after a couple of delays and much discussion, Gananoque finally has a deputy mayor.
Recently, council amended the procedural bylaw to replace the definition of deputy mayor and appoint the position for a four-year term.
Council then appointed Coun. Vicki Leakey to the position.
"Typical me, I thought, 'pick up your socks,' there’s an opportunity here, a door has opened, go," said Leakey, who is retired from 27 years working in public accounting as a senior manager for KMPG’s Kingston office.
"Because I value community and community life, this is an opportunity to do more. I am physically able, I’ve got some training behind me, I’m financially solid, I’m not a wealthy person but I can afford bread. So, it’s time to give back."
Although Leakey will serve as the town’s deputy mayor for the remainder of council’s term, she was initially not in favour of amending the procedural bylaw to replace the definition of deputy mayor and appointing the position for a four-year term.
"Because I thought other people might be interested," Leakey said. "But then I started to feel that there’s a purpose to this, so I decided to run with it.
"At the end of this, I will bring a motion forward, around middle of Year Three, Year Four, asking, are we happy with this? Here’s the negatives, here’s the positives. And how does the rest of council feel? Is this something we should lay out for next council or leave alone and let the next council figure out what they want?"
Leakey describes her role as a "backup position" to the mayor.
"I just have to go to bed every night and pray nothing happens to (Gananoque Mayor) John Beddows," Leakey laughed.
"I do not care about titles. However, if that title has to go into action, I want to be prepared, so there needs to be some constant communication and development. If I sit on the backburner for four years, that’s fine, however, I want the position prepared. It’s a backup position, so for me personally, I’ll be focusing on worrying about the town, but I also will learn and understand what the role is."
Leakey, Anne-Marie Koiner, Patrick Kirkby, Colin Brown, and the mayor, Beddows, are all new faces to the council chambers in Gananoque, having been elected to the position during October’s municipal election. Coun. Matt Harper and Coun. Dave Osmond are the only two leftovers from the previous term.
Leakey admitted there’s plenty to learn in a short period of time for the newly elected members of council, especially during this time of year, which is budget season. But the experience, nonetheless, has been rewarding.
"As a councillor, I look for every opportunity to say, ‘how do we help volunteers, support volunteers but get out of their way?," Leakey said. “I am appreciating the time and effort people put into making this a great place to live.”
Leakey describes herself as an achiever who tries to stay in constant communication with the community she serves.
Periodically, she’s taken to her personal Facebook page to let the community know where she’ll be and when she’ll be there, in case members of the community are interested in joining her, maybe having a coffee.
It’s like a Coffee with a Councillor. The idea was motivated by the recent Coffee with a Cop and Coffee with a Firefighter initiatives put in place by the Gananoque Police Service and Gananoque Fire Department.
“It’s a comfortable setting for communication,” Leakey said. “It’s a way to keep a pulse with the community. I went a couple times for the Coffee with a Cop, and it broadens your perspective. Sometimes there’s no answers. But information is key.”
(Keith Dempsey is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Brockville Recorder and Times. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.)