Huntsville Mayor Scott Aitchison presided over his last council meeting on Monday, October 28, 2019, as many called him a friend, expressed their gratitude for his support and wished him well in his next chapter as this area’s federal representative in Ottawa.
Born in 1973, Aitchison was first elected to Huntsville council at the tender age of 21 and has spent most of his adult life as a career politician serving Huntsville and the District of Muskoka. At his last council meeting as mayor, before officially taking his seat in Ottawa, there were a few tears, a bit of nostalgia, and a lot of laughter as well as promises to keep in touch.
“It’s certainly a bittersweet evening for most of us, especially staff. We’ve had the pleasure of working with the mayor for the past five years,” said Huntsville CAO Denise Corry.
“And I know I speak on behalf of the entire team when I say it’s been an absolute pleasure. So you’ve supported us, you respected us in a professional role, you fostered an environment that allowed each and every one of us to feel valued, to grow in our professional capacity and to be our best self,” said an emotional Corry. “It’s been an absolute pleasure and an honour to serve as your CAO for the past five years. I can assure you that the inside of the walls of Town Hall will never be the same. We are so very proud of you and we wish you all the best as you enter the next phase of your political career.”
Deputy Mayor Karin Terziano referred to the mayor as a friend. “I could not begin to list his accomplishments as a councillor or the fights that he fought over the years, but I do know that he carries Huntsville in his heart and has always battled for the betterment of Huntsville and Huntsville residents. As a mayor, Scott declared the town is open for business and that our goal was to cut down on unnecessary red tape and foster growth, and we did. He declared that we would tackle the housing issue, regardless whether or not it was a municipal mandate, and we’ve started. He listened while campaigning and put more money into infrastructure, roads in particular, and we did and we still will,” she said. “Scott has led this council well; we are all better people for having him as our mayor.”
Terziano thanked Aitchison for the opportunity to work closely with him and learn from him as the Town’s Deputy Mayor. She presented him with the Town Hall flag that flew on his last day as mayor, an exercise prompted by Aitchison during his tenure when he said that he did not want to ever see a tattered flag flying above Town Hall again. He introduced a policy to change the flag at Town Hall every month and the flags that came down would be used as a gift on special occasions. “I cannot think of anything more special than presenting to you Mayor Scott Aitchison this Canadian flag flown on the Town Hall of Huntsville on this your last day,” said Terziano as she presented him with the flag to applause from those present.
Terziano also recounted Aitchison’s comments about the garden at the entrance of Town Hall as having seen better days. “And he declared that he was going to replant that garden and that in future it would be known as the mayor’s garden or council’s garden and we would all become caretakers for that garden,” recalled Terziano. She told Aitchison that a plaque had been ordered for that garden with his name, “and yes we will care-take it in your absence but anytime you’re back in town serving your constituents, feel free to do some weeding,” she said to laughter.
He was also presented with a framed photo montage of his political life and Town Hall. “We wish you every success and in no particular order a brilliant political future federally, a happy life, health always – God speed your worship,” concluded Terziano.
The rest of council followed around the table and one-by-one congratulated him for becoming this area’s next Member of Parliament; many thanked him for putting his faith in them as new councillors when they were first elected five years ago, others thanked him for his leadership, for thinking outside of the box, and for his sense of humour.
“We make really hard choices and we don’t always agree but under your leadership, we always leave as friends,” said Councillor Nancy Alcock. Others echoed similar sentiments.
Former Huntsville mayors Claude Doughty, Len Clarke, Ron House, Hugh Mackenzie, and Bob Addison were in the audience.
“I’ve served with every single one of the mayors up there, except for Bob [Addison] but he’s always been available to me and offered wise counsel and I appreciate that. Until you’ve been the mayor, you don’t really know what it’s like and so I learned very quickly to rely on those folks that had been here before because they get it, more than anybody, and so to each of you I want to thank you so much for the support you’ve given me. I’m honoured that you’re here tonight, that means a lot to me,” said Aitchison who also thanked former Councillor Fran Coleman for being present as well as former Lake of Bays Mayor Tom Pinckard – both of whom he’s worked with in some capacity.
Aitchison said he’d had a visit from former Huntsville High School principal and former Huntsville Mayor Terry Clarke, who he called a mentor and said was responsible for awakening his interest in running for office. Others in attendance included Bracebridge Mayor Graydon Smith, District Chair John Klinck, Huntsville OPP Detachment commander John-Paul Graham and the former chair of Huntsville’s Accessibility Advisory Committee Debbie Kirwin.
“I’ve really enjoyed working with every single one of you,” said Aitchison. He thanked his council colleagues and told staff that they are well-served by them. He also told municipal staff, “I think that we’re well-served by you and I’m proud of the way we operate. You know, everyone knows that there’s a job to get done, we expect excellence but… there’s great camaraderie and a really collegial atmosphere around here and I think that’s really important and I hope that continues after I’m gone,” he said. “I’m excited to start that next chapter but it is a bittersweet moment. I’ve loved serving on this council my whole life and being the mayor has honestly been the greatest honour of my entire life and working with all of you is something that I will never, ever forget. And leading this community has been the most enjoyable thing I’ve ever done. And I’ll never have a better title than ‘your worship,’ I swear it doesn’t get any better than that,” he said to chuckles.
“I’m not going to be here in this chair anymore but I’m still going to be around. We’re going to work together with all the other communities in Parry Sound-Muskoka as well and we’re going to continue the fight on important issues like housing, but not just here in Huntsville but all over and all across this country.” A standing ovation followed with a reception at Partners Hall.
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