Now that Scott Aitchison has been elected as the next Member of Parliament for Parry Sound-Muskoka he will be given an opportunity to bid his council farewell and officially resign as mayor of Huntsville when councillors meet on October 28.
The municipality will then be required to officially declare the mayor’s position as vacant either at that meeting or the following meeting in November. From there the clock will start ticking; within 60 days of declaring the head of council seat vacant councillors will have to decide how to fill it: either by holding a byelection or through an appointment process.
District and Town Councillor Tim Withey, who is eyeing the vacancy, has made his position clear. He has maintained for some time that the head of council is too important a position not to be decided by the residents of Huntsville, rather than a council appointment, despite the estimated $100,000 municipal staff have said it would cost to hold a byelection.
There is speculation that Withey would have a better chance at becoming mayor in a byelection than through a council appointment since he’s a newcomer when it comes to the current council composition whose members are already accustomed to working together.
Withey ran against Aitchison in the 2014 municipal elections but lost. Four years later, in the 2018 municipal election, all but two councillors were returned to office by voters. Councillor Det Schumacher retired and his daughter Dione Schumacher was elected in his place, while Councillor Bob Stone who ran for Town and District council lost to Withey. Councillors Jonathan Wiebe and Karin Terziano were acclaimed.
But Withey maintains he’s not in support of a byelection simply because he’s considering the position. “Even if I decide not to run, I still believe that we need a byelection. Period,” he said when contacted by Huntsville Doppler. Withey argued that there are still three years left in this council’s mandate and reiterated that the head of council should be chosen by the voter.
If a byelection is called and Withey does decide to run, he’ll be running against Deputy Mayor Karin Terziano who has confirmed that she’s decided to throw her hat in the ring to officially become Huntsville’s next mayor in whatever process council chooses.
Asked what prompted the decision, Terziano said she’s already fulfilled the role. Terziano took on the mayor’s duties while Mayor Aitchison was away due to heart surgery as well as when he was on unpaid leave in order to run as the Member of Parliament for this riding.
“Let me put it this way, it’s not something that I was going to do before Scott decided to run, and then when he decided to run I just wanted to see how it all played out but I thought at that time that if he won I might take a stab at running for mayor,” she said, adding that it wasn’t something she thought of doing a year ago when Scott Aitchison was running for his second term, “but having worked with him for the last five years and having a pretty good idea of what’s going on in the Town right now, where we were hoping to go in the next three years, it makes sense for me.”
Terziano said council has a roadmap going forward for the next three years with its strategic plan and fulfilling that plan will be a big task in itself.
When asked what her top three priorities would be as Huntsville mayor, Terziano said staying fiscally responsible and keeping guard over taxpayers’ money would be one of them, she said staying on top of decisions concerning the hospitals would be another, as well as ensuring that all Huntsville residents are considered in any decisions made by council.
“I hate the stuff that I hear on a regular basis about the so-called residents versus the tourists or versus the seasonal [residents]… I think everybody is important and I think that’s a priority for me, that everybody feels like they’re important. I don’t like to hear negative comments where there are local residents who don’t think they’re important to Town council and that the only people that are important to us are the tourists or the seasonal folks. I don’t want anybody in our town to think like that and so I want to address that, and it’s in everything whether it’s housing, whether it’s flooding – whatever it is that makes somebody feel like Town council doesn’t care about them, I’d like to see addressed,” she said.
Asked whether she’d prefer to see the mayor’s position filled through an appointment process or a byelection, Terziano said that’s a discussion she’ll be having with her colleagues around the council table.
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