Reflections on municipal council’s first half of term

Hard as it may be to belief, last month marked the midway point of Greater Napanee council’s four-year term.

It was back on Oct. 22, 2018 that candidates and members of the public crowded into town council chambers and eagerly awaited the results of the election. After a bit of a delay that only heightened the anticipation, Marg Isbester was officially named mayor-elect for Greater Napanee. Recalling the actual length of the set back is a bit of a challenge, the archived Beaver story mentions ‘Isbester said she was relieved when the results-which were a bit delayed in being revealed at town hall-were finally posted.’ Maybe the hold up just seems longer because this reporter had a toddler who was just a few days shy of turning two by his side, growing all the more impatient with every passing minute. Though it’s all relative-compared to the recent U.S. election, the municipal election was determined at warp speed.

The fact that municipal election night was just over two years ago has the uncanny ability to feel as though it was only a few short months ago while simultaneously feeling like it was five years ago. Maybe that’s just a side effect of the Year 2020, where the concept of time has gone by the wayside. The very idea a large group of people was allowed to assemble in the council chambers that October 2018 evening, with no regard for physical distancing or mask wearing seems like such a foreign concept today.

Perhaps gauging the time passed since the last election feels like a challenge because this half term of council has faced unprecedented challenges.

Though Isbester and deputy mayor Max Kaiser had council experience prior to the 2018 election, neither had served in their current roles. The remaining five councilors elected that night were all new to the horseshoe. None of the candidates who filed to run in 2018 could have ever expected what they’d have to face in 2020. Instead just over a year into their term that they campaigned so hard to earn, they were forced to learn on the fly, moving from in-person meetings to Zoom. Council has since moved back to in-person, meeting at the Selby Community Hall. That process hasn’t been without its technical difficulties, but it has improved through trial and error.

Meanwhile all but a few essential projects were halted as the budget was slashed and diverted into COVID-19 recovery.

To their credit, council has shown an ability to roll with the punches. They’ve managed to remain accessible to residents. They’ve offered steady leadership through uncertain times. Fortunately the town’s reserves were in good shape prior to the pandemic. With no end yet in sight, it’s impossible to say just how the town’s financial state will look when it’s all said and done. Then again, the same can be said for every town, city and province across this country and beyond.

Looking ahead to the next two years, we can only hope the latter half of this term will have more of a ‘normal’ feel. Whatever ‘normal’ in 2021 and 2022 looks like.

Adam Prudhomme

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