Mayor looks back on 2016

Thoughts and reflections on the year past

My cynical friend, who wishes to remain anonymous (Bob), likes to boast that he spent 90% of his money on wine, women and song—the other 10% he wasted.  He swore before New Year’s he was going to quit all his bad habits but changed his mind because he decided no one likes a quitter.

Combined best and worst phone call of 2016

Picked up the phone in the Oval Office (which is square).  On the other end of the line was a woman who said she was a senior citizen.  Some callers give that disclaimer when they call though not sure why as the Mayor’s Office doesn’t have discount rate for senior callers, although they get automatic respect for their life experiences.  She asked in a quiet voice if I had read the “Letters to the Editor” in today’s paper including the really negative one about the Mayor.  (Was thinking, which one?)  She gave her surname and said the letter was signed with that surname.  I answered “Yes, I believe it was negative letter six.”  The caller then said “my husband asked me to call you to let you know that we didn’t write that letter.”  Told the caller was very touched she had taken the time to call with that message.  Her response was “don’t get us wrong, we didn’t write the letter but we agree with everything in it.”

Most honest media comment of the year

Broadcasting Legend Bill Brady was speaking at an event for the “Voice of London” Steve Garrison, honouring his long career in broadcasting.  The room was packed with people in the media from radio, television and newspapers (for younger readers: newspapers were printed on paper, contained daily news and were delivered to your home).  Bill rocked the room with laughter when noted that he had been the pioneer of “talk radio” in Canada on CFPL in London in the ‘60s.  After being on the air for a few months he said “I soon came to the conclusion that I hated every one of my callers.”

Just bought a new printer for the home computer.  Asked the salesperson  “will this be like the printer at the office where the paper tray is always jammed and the red light blinks 24 hours a day?”  Explained I was technically incompetent and the salesperson gave me a ringing endorsement when he said “any idiot can hook it up.”

After unpacking the printer at home discovered there were no instructions with it.  Full Disclosure:  Like most males view instructions as unnecessary and only to be looked at after buying a product if it doesn’t work for six months or if it catches on fire whichever comes first.  (Editorial Note from “Deputy Mayor” Janis:  “I don’t get it, men always say women should come with instructions yet they never read them”).   After attempting to hook up the printer without success called the HELP, HELP hotline.  Spent 20 minutes listening to “thank you for your patience” repeated over and over again accompanied by music used by the CIA to get people to confess to spying.  Finally reached a live Technical  Support person.  Her questions seemed like trick ones to test one’s IT knowledge.  She asked me the printer type.  An easy question as I responded “a black one”.  Next trick question was “Are you under Windows?”  Answer “I am about two metres away from one but the door is closer”.   After a few more minutes the Technical Support Person, who sounded like she had a breathing problem because after every response she let out a huge sigh, finally referred me to the On Line Instructions site on how to hook up printers for dummies.  First step was to print off the instructions.

Home Alone at City Hall

It was the Friday before Christmas.  With City Hall closing at noon the building would lock down and without an access card you would be locked in.  Staff now getting different security levels for access too.  We are not talking about the Pentagon but Sarnia City Hall, which used to be open and welcoming.  “Deputy Mayor” Janis has Security One clearance from the City Hall regime.  This means she can only come to work during certain hours and does not have 24 hour access as in the past.  (“The Deputy Mayor” would have had a higher security clearance but the background check showed she was a Neil Diamond fan.)  Was informed I have no security clearance level but am on top on THE WATCH LIST.  With a steady stream of visitors dropping by I was not able to leave the building on time.  Failed to get out by noon and was trapped in the building with all the doors locked.   Visions of “Home Alone” flashed in front of my eyes.  Four days trapped at City Hall.  What could I do?  Re-number all the bylaws?  Put whoopee cushions on the council seats?  Set fire to all the consultant reports to signal that I needed rescuing?  What if I was caught in the building?  Would I be tied to a chair and forced to watch Council reruns or be put on double secret probation?   Luckily a Security Two clearance person, who shall remain nameless, came across me in the lobby and released me to freedom.

For those of you who didn’t get a Christmas Card from the Mayor’s Office (you know who you are and it wasn’t because you weren’t good), the card was a beautiful picture, taken by Lou Sprenger, of the Sarnia Public Library Parkette with the bench statue of a couple holding on to each other after a snow storm.  Thanks to the many people who sent cards for the first time to the Mayor’s office in recognition of a difficult year.  Meant the world to receive the cards and have responded to all who provided an address and for those who didn’t this is my way of saying thank you.  For those who did receive a card drop by City Hall (business hours only) in January and the writing on the card will be translated for you.  (For the record: I don’t have bad handwriting, it is just I have my own font)

The ending of one year and the start of another brings reflection to all of us.  In my case reflection and nostalgia is a big part of life and happens when the time changes, the season changes, or even when I get the tires on “Air Mustang” rotated.   A few years ago wrote personal reflections about life’s journey on the anniversary of 25 years of serving as Mayor—words that I would need to draw heavily on from that bank of reflections in 2016.

A year when mistakes were made and lessons learned.  Pastor Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life, wrote “the most essential quality for leadership is not perfection, but credibility.  People must be able to trust you, or they won’t follow you.  How do you build credibility?  Not by pretending to be perfect, but by being honest.”

With that thought in mind here are some personal reflections that helped in 2016.   Some are my own, some are from sources ranging from the Bible to Springsteen, but with the blur of time and memory, have evolved to become my own.

  • The majority isn’t always right. Listen to your heart.
  • Do not let adversity define you.
  • A Leader is a dealer in hope and optimism balanced by realism in an evolving world.
  • Patience, patience and patience.
  • Emotion is not to be apologized for. It reflects your soul and true feelings.
  • True meaning in one’s life comes when you devote yourself to creating something meaningful in your world that gives you purpose and happiness.
  • Believe in the fierce urgency of now.
  • That there is no shame in falling down. The only shame is not getting back up.
  • Use your closest relationships to build you up and bring comfort in the dark days and to share the joy of the wonderful days.
  • Fight the good fight and always keep the faith.
  • Keep your sense of humour as it gives balance and brings people closer to you.
  • When you have a choice, take the path less traveled and don’t be scared about starting your own path.
  • Don’t surrender to the culture of meanness that surrounds us today that takes away civility and respect for each other. The words of Michelle Obama were an inspiration this past year…..“When they go low, we go high”.
  • Give yourself to your community to be part of something bigger than yourself.

Thought of many different ways to finish this column but always returned back to the same ending reflecting on 2016 and as a way of saying thank you to those who have been supportive.  The quotes are from the movie It’s a Wonderful Life–a movie that brings tears every time viewing.  The quotes are from Clarence the Angel.  “Strange isn’t it!  Each man’s life touches so many other lives.”

“No man is a failure who has friends.”

If you have any ideas or comments please call me at 519-332-0330 Ext. 3312 or 519-336-8092 or

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