Sarnia Mayor’s column highlights importance of ‘finishing well’

My cynical friend, who wishes to remain anonymous (Bob), finally found a way to keep his relatives from dropping by his place. On the door in big letters he has printed JOB CENTRE.

—Often asked to bring greetings or make a speech to various audiences. The difference between the two is simple. Greetings last three to five minutes during which people will use their electronic device, cough, converse with the person beside them and count the number of tiles on the ceiling. Speeches last five to twenty minutes during which people will use their electronic device, cough, converse with the person beside them and count the number of tiles on the ceiling. To paraphrase Stephen Leacock, most people tire of speeches in 10 minutes, but the clever ones can do it in five.

—Pastor Richard Vander Vaart, at the grand opening of the new Sanctuary of Living Hope Christian Reformed Church, used the word “Hallelujah” in his message over and over again in a booming voice, giving a powerful message. Was up next to bring Greetings (see above). Noted that the church had a different type of pastoral hierarchy with Pastor Richard and Pastor Craig as equal Co-pastors and was glad it was working out as the Co- Mayor thing in Toronto wasn’t going as well.

Shared with the congregation that I was always nervous speaking in a church, having been scarred from my first speech as Mayor at a church where I stumbled around, speaking without notes and without a point. When finishing up the congregation was yelling Hallelujah, Hallelujah–but for all the wrong reasons.

At the end of the service, when heading to the back of the church, was stopped by a woman who said “Mayor Bradley, I know you are new but even so that was the worst speech I have ever heard.” It got worse. Taking leave of the church the Pastor noted the downcast look and asked me what was wrong. Explained what the woman had said and pointed her out. He looked over and said “Don’t worry, that is the Church busybody and she just repeats everything she hears.”

—Had noticed for weeks at City Hall the hushed conversations that ended whenever approaching City employees. Then overheard a couple of staff talking about “needing 18 people and we will meet in the basement tomorrow at noon.”

After serving 25 years as Mayor always wary and wondering if someone was plotting a coup. Don’t laugh; it happened in Toronto where the Deputy Mayor is now in control while the elected Mayor is out of control. Even though “Deputy Mayor” Janis has denied any interest in the Mayor’s position saying she couldn’t afford the huge pay cut and enjoys running the City without the title, I still was on guard.

Turns out my paranoia was misplaced. What was happening was the establishment of a Weight Watchers group at City Hall. Should have guessed sooner when someone in the office, who shall remain nameless, (and truly will unless I want to enter the Witness Protection Programme) refused to lick any stamps because they didn’t know the “Point Value.”

Totally supportive as Weight Watchers is a good organization that gives people a chance to go and watch other people diet. (Memo to Payroll Department. Putting the Weight Watcher deduction on the pay stub was a good idea. Putting it in big letters was not.)

Shouldn’t joke about people and weight loss because of an exchange with a girlfriend that was a life lesson for me. She was a beautiful woman but concerned about her weight. We had always promised to be totally honest with each other; however, missed the part of the contract where there were a few asterisks. She asked “Do you think I should lose weight?” Instead of taking the Fifth Amendment and every other Amendment that protects one from bodily harm, I responded “Oh, just a few pounds, maybe five to ten, fifteen to twenty max.” When I regained consciousness, she was gone.

—The music of the song “Hallelujah” played by a superb string quartet warmly drenched the congregation on a cold winter day with the power and love of that beautiful song. The place was Dresden Community Church for the funeral of Larry O’Neill. Had driven down alone on a blustery winter day on Highway 21 through his beloved Ennskillen, the home of his family farm. Many thoughts swirling, like the snow, in my mind. Drove past the farms and homes of the people he had done so much for to improve their lives. Past the Township Office where he met and greeted taxpayers in a friendly, caring and open way. He was a friend before and after he left politics. Larry had served as Mayor of Enniskillen Township and was Warden of Lambton County in 1989–a landmark year in municipal history in Ontario with the settlement of the longest boundary dispute ever.

The dispute had created great acrimony between local governments and negatively impacted on economic and social growth for many years. Finally, a local negotiated solution had been arrived at and under Bill 35 the City would amalgamate with the Town of Clearwater and rejoin the County after a seven decade absence.

It was a major challenge to bring two communities together and transfer major services from the City to the County in a short time frame. The reception in the City and Clearwater generally was supportive while in the County there was a significant tax increase and strong opposition.

Bill 35 was blamed for everything from the lower wheat yield to the lack of rain. Larry, as Warden, was the lightning rod for the dissent and criticism. During that time had become very close to the O’Neill family and observed his quiet, humble leadership which was instrumental in meeting the opposition with grace and unwavering faith that his vision of a united County was the right one.

His actions were a profile in political courage. He was always a gentleman who was civil to all he encountered and even the critics of Bill 35 respected him greatly. And between us personally, despite the political storm around us, he never complained or let it impact on our friendship.

Larry was vindicated over time as the reformed Lambton County emerged as the model for collaborative and co-operative government in Ontario. He left active politics over a decade ago but still had an abiding interest and commitment to his community. Last year, the day after being told he would not win his cancer battle, he still went to Queen’s Park to fight for his community in opposition to the imposition of wind turbines on unwilling host communities. This was a testimony to his grit, tenacity and character. It is a fight that others will continue in his memory. Larry loved Irish history. And so, to his family Maureen, Chantelle, Jeff, and many friends, at this time of grief, I share an Irish proverb–Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.

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

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